Comic Relief investments no laughing matter

The Momentum UK Team 11 December 2013

Comic Relief is getting 'schtick' for what appears to be an underlying hypocrisy in its investment strategy.

It has been revealed by BBC's Panorama that Comic Relief have been investing money in tobacco, alcohol, and arms shares. These investments in ‘booze, bombs and fags’ would seem to contradict the core values of the charity.

Founded in 1985, this high-profile charity, which gets a significant amount of airtime each year around Red Nose Day, is best known for its signature rudolph-esque red noses. The charity has raised almost 1 billion for good causes to date.

As Comic Relief can have millions of pounds in the bank at any one time, the money is invested to maximise returns, as stated by Charity Commission guidelines. A portion of the money is put into managed funds, and this is then invested on their behalf in various places, including the stock market.

The documentary claimed that between 2007 and 2009, three million of the charity’s funds had been invested in tobacco companies. The investment firms don't clown around, and Panorama are alleging that £630,000 went towards shares for weapons manufacturer BAE systems, and £300,000+ on shares in alcoholic beverages company Diageo. Diageo produce well known drinks such as Smirnoff, Baileys and Guinness.

Kevin Cahill, the Chief Executive of Comic Relief, has pledged they will re-examine their policy and ensure that they “do the right thing”.

Comic Relief released a statement:

“Because the range of issues we support is so broad, ethical screening would significantly limit our ability to invest as well as seriously increase financial risk.

"Therefore ethical screening would have left us unable to meet both our legal and moral obligation to maximise returns and look after the money in our care with an appropriate level of risk. Instead we put the money into large managed funds, like many other leading charities and pension funds. We do not invest directly in any individual company. We believe this approach has delivered the greatest benefits to the most vulnerable people.

"This policy has achieved strong returns over the years, which have helped Comic Relief cover its running costs, without having to use any of the money donated directly by the public. This is a complex area, with many important considerations, and we keep it under constant review."