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It's time to make our money talk, says Archbishop of Wales

Posted on: July 3, 2015 10:09 AM
Archbishop Barry Morgan (rt) with David Myrddin-Evans, divisional director of Brewin Dolphin.
Photo Credit: Church in Wales

[Church in Wales] Ethical investment is no longer the preserve of the do-gooding fringe of finance – it’s become the business of us all, the Archbishop of Wales said at a charity seminar [on July 3].

Welcoming the Governor of the Bank of England’s vow in his recent Mansion House address to stop the “ethical drift” of City traders and put an end the “age of irresponsibility”, Dr Barry Morgan said ethics applied as much to how we invested our money as how we led our lives.

He warned that charity supporters expected everything in which the organisation was involved to reflect its values, including its financial investments. Failure to do that, he said, risked alienating supporters and damaging its reputation.

The Archbishop was delivering the keynote speech at investment manager Brewin Dolphin Wales’ charity seminar at the St David’s Hotel and Spa in Cardiff.

The seminar, attended by more than 100 charity and voluntary sector executives, trustees and advisors, also considered the constraints on funding many charities were now facing, as well as the requirement to become more self-sufficient in terms of income generation.

In his speech – reflecting on the social, moral and ethical dilemmas facing charity trustees – Dr Morgan said “For those who have been putting principles before profit for years, to hear terms such as ethics, responsibility and personal accountability trip off the tongue of the most powerful financier in the country onto the front pages of all the national newspapers, is very heartening. It shows more than anything else that ethical investment and investing ethically are no longer the preserve of the ‘not-for-profit’ few on the fringes of finance – they are the business of those slap bang in the mainstream too.”

He also welcomed Pope Francis’ call in his June encyclical for the global markets to address climate change by pressurising business to operate in environmentally-responsible ways.

Dr Morgan said, “Ethics govern our behaviour, and if we wish to be consistent, then all aspects of our lives should reflect our values; and that applies as much to what we do with our money, as to how we run our personal lives.

“Charity supporters (and church members) quite reasonably expect that everything the organisation is engaged in will reflect its values. Not to consider this in relation to investment would be hypocritical, and risk alienating our supporters. As they depend on goodwill and voluntary support, trust and reputation are even more important for charities and churches than for other organisations.

“Moreover, it is counter-productive to invest in things which undermine our aims and objectives.”

The Archbishop acknowledged the complexities of investment and the dilemmas facing trustees, saying that the Church in Wales, which has had an ethical investment policy since 2002, sought help from experts, such as the Church Investors Group. But he denied there was a conflict of interest between investing ethically and getting the best return on your money.

He said, “Any ethical investment comes with dilemmas….Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain the impact or cause-and-effect of various activities, or there are different but sincerely held opinions…. Companies are complex, wide-ranging, and engage in a multiplicity of activities, so rather than excluding undesirable products altogether, thresholds are set for how much exposure might be allowed.”

Responsible investment, he added, “is not just about careful choice of investment funds; it is also about using shareholder power to encourage companies to change their policy.”

Yet despite the daunting complexities of investment, charities had never had such a good opportunity to make their money talk, the Archbishop said, “As the challenges and dilemmas increase, so do the opportunities – the chance to learn how connected our world is, how our behaviour and decisions, however small, impact on others in ways we hardly realise, how, in short, we can make a real difference to the well-being of everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Download Archbishop Morgan’s keynote speech on the Church in Wales' website.