Christians call for BP Ethics

Last week came the news that UK and US faith investors, primarily Christian churches, had found common cause in relation to BP, the oil giant that held its annual general meeting last Thursday.
As described on these pages, they want BP to improve its safety.

The UK churches persuaded their US brethren not to add a shareholder resolution to the meeting’s agenda calling explicitly for an improvement, but to continue making their presence felt through less formal channels.

To put forward a shareholder resolution is perceived as a rather aggressive act, even if its effectiveness is doubtful, and the churches felt it was better to give BP’s new chief executive, Bob Dudley, a year to get to grips with the issue.

They plan to look at BP’s record again in October, on the anniversary of Dudley’s accession; if they don’t think the company has done enough, a shareholder resolution will go back on the agenda.

Remarks by the UK’s Church Investors Group last week about expecting to follow the US churches’ lead in respect of US companies, suggests the churches’ co-operation over BP will not be an isolated example.

Faith investors are unlikely to be any more than minor shareholders in a big company such as BP – the 30 members of CIG, representing the UK churches, have only about £200m in BP, about 0.2% of the company’s market capitalisation.

But their congregations cover the globe. They also claim a moral authority that many recognise and which is distinct from normal commercial concerns.

Some leaders of companies, and some companies, especially in the US, have strong links with religion that would make it difficult for them to ignore the views of their pastor.