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Comic Relief ends tobacco investment

BBC News BBC News 28/05/2014 BBC News
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Comic Relief will no longer invest in tobacco, arms or alcohol companies, after reviewing its investments, it has said.

The charity came under criticism after BBC's Panorama revealed it had invested in firms which appeared to contradict the core values of Comic Relief.

The charity has since spent two months reviewing its investment policy.

Tim Davie, the chairman of Comic Relief, said that public trust was the "cornerstone" of the charity.

However, the review's recommendations stopped short of banning all unethical companies to "avoid an excessive reduction in the universe available for investment".

The review panel headed by John Kingston, who is the chairman of the Association of Charitable Foundations, made five recommendations which also included promises to be more transparent with its accounts and to sign up to a United Nations responsible investment policy.

Comic Relief also said it wanted to set aside a small proportion of money for social investment to "demonstrate the organisation's commitment" to using its money in support of its core values.

But one of the recommendations said that Comic Relief should only screen out the sectors that "directly conflict with its vision or bring the most reputational risk", and it added that "trustees should aim for only a small number of absolute prohibitions".

'Trust'

Tim Davie said: "We would be nothing without our many supporters to whom we have listened and will keep listening.

"We now have an investment policy that is firmly in line with the ethos of the charity, at the same time as making sure that the money we raise can go further to change lives both here in the UK and abroad."

Comic Relief has raised nearly £1bn for worthwhile causes in the UK and abroad, and it pays out the money it receives to other charities, sometimes over several years.

This means Comic Relief holds tens of millions of pounds at any one time, and the charity uses a number of managed funds which invest that money on the charity's behalf, including in the stock market.

Panorama revealed in December last year that between 2007 and 2009 some of these investments, amounting to millions of pounds, appeared to contradict several of Comic Relief's core aims.

Despite its mission statement claiming it is committed to helping "people affected by conflict", in 2009 it was revealed that the charity had £630,000 invested in shares in weapons firm BAE Systems.

Tobacco

Comic Relief also had more than £300,000 invested in shares in the alcohol industry despite its mission statement saying it is "working to reduce alcohol misuse and minimise alcohol related harm".

The majority were found to be invested in drink manufacturer Diageo.

Comic Relief also appeals for money to fight tuberculosis and has given over £300,000 to a charity called Target Tuberculosis.

Target TB believes that smoking may be responsible for more than 20% of TB cases worldwide.

Panorama also found that while raising funds in 2009, nearly £3m of Comic Relief money was invested in shares in tobacco companies.

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