The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has appointed Edward Mason as its new Secretary.
The announcement comes after last week’s revelations that the Church had sold its shares in controversial company Caterpillar.
The EIAG had been criticised after it recommended that the Church keep the shares in the company whose bulldozers were used by Israel to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes, and killed peace activist Rachel Corrie in 2005.
The Church cited ‘financial reasons’ for the eventual sale of the shares.
It appointment also comes after the publication of a report last week on mining in the Philippines, backed by Catholic Bishops in the country. The report urged disinvestment in a number of mining companies, including two in which the Church of England had a £80 million investment according to the last annual report of the Church Commissioners. However, the value of it shares in the two companies, Xstrata and BHP Billiton, have fallen by 80% and 50% respectively in value over the last year.
The EIAG was set up in 1997. It came after the Bishop of Oxford brought a legal case against the Church Commissioners who manage the Church’s finances, in 1991.
At the end of 2000, the EIAG changed its policy after campaigns to get the church to sell its shares in arms companies. Prior to that the Church invested in firms where less than half the turnover was linked to the manufacture of arms.
The Church has previously justified its involvement with companies which others might consider ethically suspect, by arguing that its shareholdings gives the Church leverage to influence how companies behave.
The new Secretary of the EIAG Edward Mason currently heads the London office of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit diplomatic advisory group which he helped to establish. After Wadham College, Oxford, where he read History, Edward worked for the Foreign Office, serving in various posts over fifteen years, including at the British Embassies in Oslo and Zagreb.
John Reynolds, EIAG Chairman, welcomed Edward’s appointment: “I am delighted that Edward is to become Secretary to the EIAG, bringing with him valuable experience and skills. The EIAG’s role is especially important in the current economic climate and Edward will play a key part in both ethical investment policy and engagement with companies.”
Edward is married to Fiona. They have two daughters aged five and two and are members of the congregation of St Michael’s Church in Southfields, south-west London.
He said: “I am looking forward to supporting the EIAG as it reviews and develops its ethical investment advice and engages on ethics with companies in which the Church of England investing bodies hold shares. The Church of England is in a unique position to play a leading role in the development and practice of both ethical investment and engagement on ethics with business.”
Edward takes up his new post, based in Church House, Westminster, at the beginning of March.