St Paul's Institute

Have Your Say on Extractive Industries

by Barbara Ridpath

Posted: 29 Apr 2016

The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) is developing an ethical investment policy for the extractive industries. As part of that development they have launched a public consultation requesting views on the subject which is available here. Having spent an informative and fascinating day at their roundtable on the subject last week, St Paul's Institute encourages you to take a look at the issue and respond to the consultation if you have a constructive view on the subject.

Last week's roundtable brought clergy and theologians, advisors, industry experts, academics and civil society groups together to talk about best approaches, case studies of successful engagement and a way forward. It is the EIAG's intention to produce their policy within a year.

This effort is critical. It is important that churches act in accordance with their values and continue to hold their actions up to regular scrutiny. Second, the time spent by the EIAG considering these policies thoughtfully and seriously over time has proved both fruitful and illuminating for the investment community. Increasingly, investors and investment managers are using EIAG policies as ways to screen investment policies and portfolios for potential ethical pitfalls.

Theirs is a difficult job given rapidly changing thinking on the subject, the interactions of extractive industry considerations with other issues including: environmental damage, climate change, equality, and community development. The unintended consequences of any investment policy also need to be considered, as does the issue of whether it is better to disinvest and lose your voice, or hold the shares and engage actively for change.

These are complex issues. Behind them is a simple message. We were given this garden in which to live as a gift, but we are only visitors on this planet and we do not own it. We have been given it in trust for future generations with the responsibility for its stewardship. This together with our need to recognize each being on the Earth as part of creation, and our need to recognize the value of each human being, should inform all our decisions as well as our investment decisions.

Extractive industries are particularly tough. They are assets that cannot be replaced once they are taken out of the earth. How we use them, and how we can, wherever possible, recycle them so as to limit our need to extract more, and what we give back to make up for what we have taken out, are difficult but compelling questions.

About this author

Barbara Ridpath is the Director of St Paul's Institute.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.