Church of England to Tackle Ethical Issues in Big Tech

Pensions Board to publish updated policy H2 2021.

The Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB) will publish an ethical investment policy on Big Tech which will “inform and lead to further engagement with this important industry”. The policy, developed in partnership with the CoE’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), will be published later this year.

The focus on Big Tech is one of the 2021 engagement priorities outlined by the Pensions Board in its first annual Stewardship Report that aligns with the new UK Stewardship Code.

The ethical investment policy will inform engagement across all the Church’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs), not just the pensions arm, the report noted.

This follows 18 months of exploration into the issues posed by Big Tech. The sector has previously been criticised for poor social performance and tax avoidance.

“We are consulting with a range of experts and practitioners, including investors and technology companies,” Anna McDonald, Secretary of the EIAG, told ESG Investor.

Acting in concert with the Church Commissioners, Hermes, Robeco and a number of other shareholders, CEPB last year filed an unsuccessful resolution calling on Alphabet to create a committee to strengthen governance oversight of human rights.

CEPB, which represents £3 billion AUM and supports 41,000 pension scheme members, also plans to build upon the launch of the Net Zero Investment Framework, an initiative first developed in 2019 by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) as part of its Paris Aligned Investment Initiative (PAII).

Working with Sweden’s AP7 pension fund and BNP Paribas Asset Management, CEPB will further publish a global industry standard on corporate climate lobbying “that identifies good practice of lobbying activities undertaken by industry associations, and how they can lobby positively in support of low-carbon transition”, the report noted.

The UK Stewardship Code 2020 aims to set high stewardship standards for asset owners, asset managers and service providers, ensuring the responsible allocation, management and oversight of capital leading to sustainable benefits for the economy and environment.

Asset managers must submit their application form and annual report to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) by March month-end. Asset owners and service providers have until April 30 2021.

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