British and Irish religious investors confer on corporate responsibility

By agency reporter
March 5, 2009

The global financial system is in crisis, and a strong global agreement to tackle dangerous climate change is urgently needed at Copenhagen later this year, say British and Irish church-related ethical investors.

Responding to these challenges, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) has chosen a key moment to hold a conference in Dublin on the importance of sustainable and socially responsible investment for the churches and the wider investor community.

Companies, Communities and Religious Investors - a conference on socially responsible investment, takes place on Thursday 5 March 2009 from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm at All Hallows College, Dublin.

The co-organisers are Trócaire, the Inter-Church Committee on Social Issues (ICCSI), the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, Christian Aid Ireland, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), the Missionary Oblates, the Missionary Society of St Columban, and 3iG (International Interfaith Investment Group).

As bad as the credit crunch is for Ireland and the UK, local communities in countries in the global South where multinational companies operate have been hit far harder, and for decades longer, they argue.

The operations of giant oil, mining and logging companies have poisoned the air and water of communities in the Niger Delta, and devastated livelihoods in the Philippines - turning a country once self-sufficient in rice into the world‘s biggest rice importer. Both cases will be explored at the conference.

ECCR, a coalition of British and Irish churches and other groups whose members control and influence more than £10 billion of invested assets, wants institutional investors to exert more pressure on global companies to halt the damage to livelihoods, human rights and the environment taking place around the world.

It wants investors to work together as shareholder advocates to bring about longer-term thinking on the part of major companies and to direct more of their funds into genuinely sustainable and beneficial sectors, such as renewable energy, clean tech, social enterprise and microcredit.

"Few 'blue chip' investments in multinational companies have held up well during the current crisis,’ says Miles Litvinoff, ECCR’s Co-ordinator. `Now is the time for institutional investors, trustees and fund managers to exercise their fiduciary responsibility more fully – not just for their direct beneficiaries, but for all humanity; and not just for today’s generations, but for generations to come."

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