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Comic Relief in spotlight over investment ethics

January 2014

A British charity has been accused of investing in arms, alcoholic drinks and tobacco companies, contrary to its published aims.

Comic Relief, which raises much of its money through two annual televised events, is said to have made the investments between 2007 and 2009 through managed funds.

Panorama, the BBC current affairs investigative programme, claimed Comic Relief placed £630,000 ($1m, €752,000) in the weapons company BAE Systems, despite its commitment to help “people affected by conflict”.
The investigators said another investment, of £300,000, was with the alcoholic drinks manufacturer Diageo, though the charity declared it was “working to reduce alcohol misuse and minimise alcohol-related harm”.

Comic Relief was then said to have invested nearly £3m in tobacco companies in 2009, yet it supports the Target Tuberculosis charity, which believes smoking may cause more than 20% of TB cases worldwide.

Comic Relief trustee Duncan Bannatyne, who appears on the UK business talent-spotting programme Dragons’ Den, even made a documentary attacking a tobacco company for targeting African children. He said he would not “put donors’ money into tobacco companies”.

Comic Relief would not comment on whether it has continued to invest in arms, drinks and tobacco shares, but maintained its approach was within regulatory guidelines.

However, the charity will now conduct a detailed review of its investments.

Panorama went on to accuse Save the Children, which received £1.5m from a ten-year relationship with British Gas, of gagging criticism of the energy industry to avoid offending potential and existing corporate partners.

Dominic Nutt, Save the Children’s former head of news, wanted to attack British Gas over energy prices but said his bosses blocked the campaign.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, which has since run a campaign criticising the main energy companies, said: “We would never decide not to campaign on something because of a corporate partnership.”
 




UK & NI Ireland | SRI

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