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Swedish row over investments: CEN 4.18.08 p 6. April 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.

The Church of Sweden has come under attack for violating the spirit of its ethical investment policies for investing in the shares of alcohol distilleries, weapons manufacturers, and mining and oil companies with poor environmental records and dubious ties to the regimes of some of the world’s worst human rights violators.

The April 4 issue of the Church of Sweden’s newspaper, Kyrkans Tidning, stated that an internal report found the Church held shares in firms such as General Electric—manufacturer of engines for the American B-1B bomber, and Chevron, which has a joint venture with the Burmese military junta.

“Our church should not have shares of companies involved in the business of death,” said the Rev. Helle Klein, a pastor in the Stockholm suburb of Nacka. However the Church’s treasurer Helen Ottosson Loven told Stockholm’s TV4 “the Swedish church recognizes the right of states to defend themselves,” and its investment guidelines permit holdings in armaments manufactures.

The Church’s investment manager, Anders Thorendal explained to Kyrkans Tidning the Church’s ethical investment guidelines permit it to invest in weapon’s manufactures that follow the EU’s code of conduct for arms exports, and who do not sell “inhuman weapons and anti-personal mines.”

“But it’s a problem that weapons can end up in wrong hands and the lack of transparency in the arms trade can contribute to corruption,” he said, saying the Church must carefully examine the policies of potential stock picks.

In recent years the Church had reversed its stance on investing in oil and mining companies, and now has holdings in Chevron, Rio Tinto, Anglo American PLC, Schlumberger, Mitsui and other multinationals. “Our starting point is that we have to invest in companies who act responsibly, such as companies who focus on environmentally compatible technologies and who minimizes the negative effects” on the environment, Thorendal said.

Shares in distilleries are not forbidden, Thorendal said, as the Church does not reject the moderate use of alcohol. However for the Church to own the shares of a distillery, it must “behave responsibly” and not market its products to young people.

In the case of Chevron, which uses a gas government owned pipeline in Burma built by slave labour, the Church seeks to “dialogue” with it to change its policies. “It’s more responsible to try to influence a company to change” than to sell its shares he said.

However, clergy in the Swedish church have objected to its pragmatic investment policies. “The church must have different guidelines for shareholding from a private company. How should we as a church fight for peace, if we simultaneously invest in the weapons industry?”, the Rev. Yvonne Eriksson told Der Standard.


1. Investments on The Finance World For News and Information Around The World On Finance » Blog Archive » Swedish row over investments: CEN 4.18.08 p 6. - April 19, 2008

[…] Swedish row over investments: CEN 4.18.08 p 6. The Church of Sweden has come under attack for violating the spirit of its ethical investment policies for investing in the shares of alcohol […]

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