Charitable endowments: the £68bn elephant in the room

2nd June 2020, words by Dominic Burke

At the Association of Charitable Foundation’s 2019 conference, ‘Funding on a Finite Planet’, its Chief Executive Carol Mack asked:

“Are we ignoring the 68 billion elephants in the room – our £68 billion pounds worth of endowments? A significant portion of which are invested in a financial system that is harming our environment and exacerbating inequality.”
As a “capitalised charity” (to borrow an illuminating term from Friends Provident Foundation), we participate in this system and use the profits we derive from it to fund our operations and grant-making. As we’ve come to better understand the role we play, our own approach is evolving towards one which, we hope, can more directly support our mission.
In doing so, we also want to contribute to a wider shift in investment practices by collaborating with peers, sharing what we learn, and challenging how things are currently done. We agree with the Charity Commission that “the time is now for us all to start thinking more purposefully about how charities invest their funds”.
Our response to the Charity Commission’s consultation on how charities can invest in line with their purpose and values brings together our current thinking in more detail. You can read it in full here: Lankelly Chase Submission to the charity commission.

We suggest that a responsible approach to investing – one which prioritises long-term public benefit and reflects our values and purpose – should be the norm for capitalised charities, rather than an option. Anything less is increasingly feeling like a dereliction of duty, for which the sector will rightly be judged.
We believe that the objective and measure of that should be positive real-world outcomes, not only the sustainability of financial returns. And we challenge ourselves, our regulator and peers to greater openness and ambition.

Let us know if you have any feedback by contacting our Investment Director:

You can find out more about our investment strategy and recent activity by clicking our ‘Responsible investment’ tags.

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