Comic Relief cash 'invested in weapons and alcohol shares'
BBC’s Panorama accuses charity of investing in shares that contradict several of its core aims
COMIC RELIEF has invested millions of pounds of donations in shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms, according to the BBC’s Panorama. The charity, which has raised £900m since it launched in 1985, uses a number of managed funds in a bid to secure the best possible financial returns for its money. But between 2007 and 2009, some of these investments appear to contradict several of its core aims, says Panorama.
- Arms: Despite its mission statement claiming to “help people affected by conflict”, the charity invested £630,000 in shares in the arms firm BAE Systems.
- Alcohol: Another of its mission statements is to work to “reduce alcohol misuse and minimise alcohol related harm”. Yet it reportedly had more than £300,000 invested in shares in alcohol manufacturer Diageo.
- Tobacco: The charity appeals for money to fight tuberculosis but in 2009 nearly £3m of Comic Relief money was invested in shares in tobacco companies.
The BBC says the charity has since changed the way it presents its accounts and it is currently impossible for the public to tell which funds the charity now invests in. Comic Relief denies any wrongdoing but declined to comment on where its money has been invested since 2009. It said its approach of putting money into large managed funds “will deliver the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people” and is within regulatory guidelines.
Meanwhile, 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. Dominic Nutt, Save the Children’s former head of news from 2007 to 2009, claimed he was stopped from campaigning on the issue of rising energy prices because of a relationship the charity had with British Gas at the time.
Justin Forsyth, the current CEO of Save the Children, said: "We would never decide not to campaign on something because of a corporate partnership." He added that the charity is “quite explicit when we go into these corporate partnerships that we won't muzzle our voice”. ·