Britain’s Quakers have sold their shares in multinational oil company BP after growing criticism from both within and outside their own ranks. The news has been welcomed by the World Development Movement (WDM), who accuse BP of “fuelling climate change”.
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), the organisation of Quakers in England, Scotland and Wales, defended their investments in BP as recently as July when questioned by the independent Quaker magazine The Friend.
At that time, WDM urged the Quakers to consider divestment, but BYM insisted that they were engaging with the company on ethical issues.
But this week, Ron Barden of BYM’s Finance and Property Committee told The Friend that “BYM has instructed our discretionary fund managers to dispose of our shareholding in BP”.
WDM said they “strongly welcomed” the news.
“It’s very important that groups such as the Quakers put their principles into practice,” WDM’s Kate Blagojevic told The Friend, “We hope that the Quakers will go further and ensure that remaining and future funds are invested in truly ethical and sustainable projects from now on.”
The news was also welcomed by Quakers campaigning on environmental and other ethical issues.
“As Friends, we are called to witness to a world that is transformed, one that is sustainable and just,” said Quaker activist Chris Wood, “This decision reflects a corporate recognition that we cannot accommodate the systematic environmental abuses that BP perpetrate”.
The Church of England and the Methodist Church however, continue to maintain their holdings in BP and other oil companies, despite calls by campaigners for them to invest elsewhere. Combined, their shareholdings in BP are worth in excess of £100 million and constitute some of their largest holdings in equities.
Both churches have run campaigns to encourage Christians and local churches to 'go green'. The Methodist Church announced recently it was also 'greening' its investments, but later said  this did not mean it would sell any of its shares in oil companies.