Straight to content

Church of England selects advisory group for impact fund set up after slave trade report 

Posted in category:
Written by:
Published: 31 July 2023

A group of clerics, impact investment specialists, academics, journalists and activists are to advise the church on establishing the fund, which will focus to a large degree on investments in communities affected by historic slavery. 

Church House, the Church of England head office in Westminster, London | Photo by Paasikivi

The Church Commissioners for England , which manages a £10.3bn (€12bn) endowment on behalf of the Church of England, has taken a further step towards establishing a £100m programme for impact investment, grant funding and research established in response to a report that linked the endowment to the historic transatlantic slavery trade

Members of an oversight group that will advise the Church Commissioners on how to establish the programme have been selected, with backgrounds covering impact investment, academia media and activism. Members were recruited through an open and transparent process, the Church Commissioners said.

Rosemarie Mallett, the Bishop of Croydon, will chair the oversight group. Prior to her ordination, Mallett was a research sociologist and academic, specialising in international development and ethno-cultural mental health. Vice-Chair will be Geetha Tharmaratnam, chief impact investment officer of the WHO Foundation

Members also include Roy Swan, director of mission investments at The Ford Foundation, Tara Sabre Collier, director of impacting investing and sustainable finance at  Chemonics UK, and Derek Bardowell, CEO of Ten Years’ Time, which advises foundations on philanthropic funding.

Among others in the group are two journalists – Alex Renton, who co-founded Heirs of Slavery, a group dedicated to encouraging people whose ancestors profited from and supported transatlantic slavery to support campaigns for reparative justice, and Jonathan Guthrie, of the Financial Times newspaper. 

In response to questions from Impact Investor, the Church Commissioners said the work would shape the way the impact fund would be deployed to “invest for a better and fairer future for all, particularly for communities affected by historic slavery”. It said there was no set timeline for the group to report back. No details of how impact would be measured, or target returns for the fund have been announced.  

Returns from the fund will be reinvested to provide “a positive legacy that will exist in perpetuity, and with the potential for other institutions to participate, further enabling growth in the size and impact of the fund”. Growth in the impact fund will also support grant funding for projects that improve opportunities for communities adversely impacted by historic slavery, as well as further research into the Church Commissioners’ historic links to slavery. 

The Church Commissioners said it would also “continue to use its voice as a responsible investor to address and combat modern slavery and human rights violations, and to seek to address injustice and inequalities”. 

The January 2023 report to which the impact fund is a response, concluded that a predecessor endowment established in 1704 invested in the South Sea Company, which traded in enslaved people, and likely received donations from individuals linked to, or who profited from, transatlantic slavery and the plantation economy. 

Under the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – the most senior cleric in the Church of England – the church has tightened its focus on ethical investing. In May, Impact Investor reported on investments made via the Archbishop’s Council Social Impact Investment Programme (SIIP), established in 2020 to support vulnerable people and communities in the UK, while generating returns to provide capital for future impact investments.

Share on social media

Latest articles