December 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm #82535
Interesting and poignant…….
Millions of pounds donated to Comic Relief have been invested in funds with shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms, BBC Panorama has learned.
The BBC has also seen evidence which suggests Save the Children censored criticism of energy firms, to avoid upsetting corporate partners.
Comic Relief said it used its funds to "deliver the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people".
Save the Children said its campaigns were unaffected by any partnerships.
Comic Relief has raised nearly £1bn for worthwhile causes in the UK and abroad.
It pays out the money it receives to other charities, sometimes over several years.
That means Comic Relief holds tens of millions of pounds at any one time.
The charity uses a number of managed funds which invests that money on the charity's behalf, including in the stock market.
Panorama has learnt that between 2007 and 2009, some of these investments, amounting to millions of pounds, appear to contradict several of its core aims.
Despite its mission statement claiming it is committed to helping "people affected by conflict", in 2009 the charity had £630,000 invested in shares in weapons firm BAE Systems.
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 was invested in Diageo, which manufactures dozens of alcoholic drinks and was recently criticised by the Health Select Committee for exploiting weaknesses in the regulation of alcohol advertising.
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 over 20% of TB cases worldwide.
While raising funds in 2009, nearly £3m of Comic Relief money was invested in shares in tobacco companies.
'Risking their reputation'
During that time, entrepreneur and Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne was a full trustee of Comic Relief.
In 2008 he made a BBC documentary attacking a tobacco company for targeting African children.
He told Panorama he "wouldn't put donors' money into tobacco companies" and said charities should invest ethically.
Ethical fund manager Helen Wildsmith looks after the cash of thousands of charities.
She said she was surprised that a charity as high profile as Comic Relief would risk its reputation and future donations.
"If people who've been giving them money, after watching the television, next year think twice and don't give that money, because they're concerned about their investment policy, then that could be argued to be a breach of fiduciary duty."
Comic Relief has now changed the way it presents its accounts and it is currently impossible for the public to tell which funds the charity currently invests in.
It declined to comment on whether any money invested since 2009 is in shares in alcohol, arms, or tobacco companies.
Comic Relief said its approach is within regulatory guidelines.
"We put the money into large managed funds, as many other leading charities and pension funds do," they said.
"On balance, we believe this is the approach that will deliver the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people."Continue reading the main story
Panorama: Find out more
- Declan Lawn presents Panorama – All in a Good Cause
- BBC One, Tuesday 10 December at 22:35 BST
And Comic Relief co-founder and former chair of trustees Peter Bennett-Jones told the Guardian the investments were made according to legal guidelines stating that they must yield the best possible financial return.
The Charity Commission, he said, made it clear that trustees "should only adopt an ethical investment approach with specific justification and not on the grounds of individual moral views".
Sam Younger, Charity Commission chief executive, said: "If a charity says 'we need to invest for the maximum financial return' that is right,"
"If they go on to say 'we therefore can't have an ethical investment policy', that's wrong," he said.
Save the Children
Panorama has also seen evidence to suggest that Save the Children censored its criticism of the energy industry to avoid upsetting potential and existing corporate partners.
Its 10 year relationship with British Gas ended in November 2012 having yielded £1.5m.
Dominic Nutt, its former head of news from 2007 to 2009, told the BBC that he was keen to campaign on the issue of rising energy prices when he worked at the charity but was stopped from doing so.
"Every year I would prepare a line on that, to go to the media, to criticise British Gas. Every year, it would be quashed," he said.
"It was a clear, 'We can't do that, because we take money from British Gas…' – that would have come down from on high."
Save the Children ran a fuel poverty campaign in January 2012 which criticised the Big Six Energy suppliers but it singled out British Gas as doing the most to help poorer families.
Justin Forsyth, current CEO of Save the Children, said: "We would never decide not to campaign on something because of a corporate partnership."
"And we're quite explicit when we go into these corporate partnerships that we won't muzzle our voice," he said.
Panorama has also seen internal emails from the Save the Children's Corporate Partnerships team, who were pitching to become EDF's charity partner – a deal which could have earned Save the Children £600,000 over three years.
The emails raised concerns about risking a potential partnership with EDF by running a fuel poverty campaign.
Justin Forsyth said: "With this specific case we were never going to launch a campaign on energy prices."
But of course there is NO such thing as an ethical investmentDecember 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm #99021
So some people will be turned off these charities and look for other ways of wasting their money.'But still', others will say, 'at least some of the money gets to the people who need it'.Quite possibly – and look what good it's done. The relatively poor giving money to the very poor, and the rich onto another good scam.December 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm #99022ALBKeymaster
Itsn't that the definition of charity: the poor people in the rich countries give money to the rich people in the poor countries?December 10, 2013 at 11:51 pm #99023alanjjohnstoneKeymaster
Do i detect an underlying agenda and message in this thread?December 10, 2013 at 11:58 pm #99024AnonymousInactivealanjjohnstone wrote:Do i detect an underlying agenda and message in this thread?
If there is its come too late, unfortunately…December 11, 2013 at 12:32 am #99025alanjjohnstone wrote:Do i detect an underlying agenda and message in this thread?
Yes comrade you did Rather than the thread being about the evils of charity, I am more interested in the fact that in order to secure the greatest return on their investment they had to compromise their principles and contradict their aims. This is as we have seen throughout history what always happens when well meaning people with noble aims start getting involved in the management of capital. To be a capitalist you must always look to maximize your return or you will end up losing your investment. Which is what we must do if we wish to become the socialist corporation of great britain.gnome wrote:If there is its come too late, unfortunately…
I think the party poll is not all that important. The real test is the conference motion on whether to implement these investment funds. Although I certainly did not expect the vote to be so heavily in favour of a yes.December 11, 2013 at 10:22 am #99026
If this post intended to make a point about the ‘ethicality’ or otherwise of investments to be made by the party, in my view it should have said so and it should be in the party business section, not the general discussion section.December 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm #99027rodshaw wrote:If this post intended to make a point about the ‘ethicality’ or otherwise of investments to be made by the party, in my view it should have said so and it should be in the party business section, not the general discussion section.
Well it's not strictly about party business either. It's about capital investments contradicting the aims of an organisation. A matter of theory. I take it as a given that capitalism and ownership of the means of production is 'unethical' to most. What I want to talk about is the material consequences of joining the owning class, of having to always chase a profit and the contradictions that brings.December 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm #99028DJPParticipantEd wrote:I take it as a given that capitalism and ownership of the means of production is 'unethical' to most.
Well it's actually the actions of the working class that reproduce and expand capital. It's something we're all tied up in wether we like it or not.It seems to me the only way that you are going to avoid being ethically implicated in day to day doings of capitalism would be to live in a cave and eat moss. Hence the bankruptcy of trying to condemn capitalism from a moralising position..December 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm #99029DJP wrote:Ed wrote:I take it as a given that capitalism and ownership of the means of production is 'unethical' to most.
Well it's actually the actions of the working class that reproduce and expand capital. It's something we're all tied up in wether we like it or not.It seems to me the only way that you are going to avoid being ethically implicated in day to day doings of capitalism would be to live in a cave and eat moss. Hence the bankruptcy of trying to condemn capitalism from a moralising position..
That is merely included for those who do see capitalism as a moral conundurum. I don't. Although I am aware that many members of this party do taking into account the party polls in the not too distant past about whether the case for socialism is a moral one. When writing that particular sentence I was also taking into consideration that some members of the EC were considering "Ethical investments". Which this article also suggests as a viable alternative. My intention for posting this is also to move away from the strawman argument that a vote against implementing investment funds is based on a moral argument and to move it onto the issue of the material consequences of joining the owning class. I litterally do not want to spend another second being diplomatic on the question of morality and if you would like to see my views on morality I would point to the last long thread we had on the subject where I debated with Robbo for several pages about whether morality mattered or just click here.December 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm #99030
How does investing the money to try and get a bit of return on it make us any more part of the owning class than having the money in the first place, sitting in a bank account?And remember, folks, the value of your investment can go down as well as up.December 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm #99031
How does owning the means of production and exploiting the surplus value of workers make us part of the owning class?I apologize, I don't know how to answer this in a way that will not come across as completely patronizing.December 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm #99032DJPParticipant
Does drawing an income from a pension that is derived from investment funds make one a capitalist?Does owning a paultry amount of shares make one a capitalist?Does the fact that the socialist party now (or soon will have) has funds in investment banking mean that it's members will no longer have to sell there labour-power in exchange for a wage?December 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm #99033AnonymousInactive
The case against capitalism is not based on any morality. Being poor does not make you any 'better' than being rich. Who wouldn't want to be a capitalist?The SPGB is unique and cannot be attacked or its reputation tarnished for investing money, its case is not ethical or moral but is based on the interests of a class. A moral stand against capitalism is sterile. In capitalism money is power.The more money a socialist organisation has the more it can attack capitalism. A moral opposition to capitalism is on the same level as a belief in religion and should be rejected by socialistsDecember 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm #99034Ed wrote:How does owning the means of production and exploiting the surplus value of workers make us part of the owning class?I apologize, I don't know how to answer this in a way that will not come across as completely patronizing.
And how can you possibly think that by investing in stocks and shares some money which would otherwise sit in a bank account (which the bank invests in stocks and shares anyway), the party suddenly owns the means of production and exploits the working class? It beggars belief. We'll still only own the current value of the money we invested.
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