What should the church commissioners, who are responsible for its Â£7 billion investment portfolio, do? They are charity trustees. They have a duty to make a return on the funds entrusted to them. And every penny they can raise means another pound from the collection plate can be used for something else. The answer is, of course, that they must exercise judgment.
The good news is that they are already allowed to. The church commissioners do not, as a result, invest in pornography, tobacco, gambling, non-military firearms, high interest rate lending or human embryonic cloning. But on tax abuse, surely the clearest measure of a company’s social responsibility, they’re not so clear.
Their advisers stated three years ago that “tax ethics should be a subject for investor engagement where it appears that a company’s approach is blatantly aggressive or abusive”. In other words, investment in such companies is permitted so long as the church makes clear that it expects high ethical standards on tax. In this respect, the commissioners have clearly failed.
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