Charity ethical investment : policy practice and disclosure
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This paper investigates the ethical investment policies of leading UK charities. It is estimated that UK charities in 2004 had £79 billion in assets of which £44 billion were invested (NCVO, 2006), with further growth in both influence and size predicted (SustainAbility, 2003). Yet we know of no published academic research in the UK or Norway which focuses on charity ethical investment. Using various methods, we have investigated charity ethical investment policies and how these policies relate to the aims of charitable organisations. First, we survey 197 large UK charities using a postal questionnaire. Second, we conduct interviews with finance directors of charities within our survey sample. Third, we conduct a preliminary investigation of ethical investment disclosures by Norwegian charities. The findings indicate that many charities do publish an ethical investment policy, but this is in many cases limited to screening out tobacco and weapons companies. Interviews revealed that charity investment policies often were more extensive than the abbreviated policies disclosed in the annual report. The implementation of the policy differed substantially from one charity to another charity. Only a few charities engage with companies directly and vote their shares on ethical matters as part of their investment policy. Investment disclosures by Norwegian charities tend to be more limited than disclosures by UK charities. We conclude with four clear policy recommendations for charities.