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Churches looking for win-win investments

THE launch of a new national Christian investment peak body later this month is part of an ongoing move by church groups to use their investment muscle.

The Christian Centre for Socially Responsible Investment (CCSRI) is, according to the centre’s founding committee chairman David Andrews, aiming to boost the impact and skills of Christian investors.

In an interview with Ethical Investor, Mr Andrews said the group saw an opportunity for a church investment organisation to take a leadership role and give members greater “negotiating clout”.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews confirmed to WA Business News that the body was aiming for a launch on May 23.

“The key is, together we can be that much stronger than if we all go our separate ways and don’t exchange ideas,” Mr Andrews told Ethical Investor.

“The Ethical Investment Association is a good peak body but there is nothing specifically for churches and Christian investors. We thought it was important to have something more specialised in its outlook,” he said.

The investment arms of the Anglican, Catholic, Uniting, Assemblies of God and Baptist churches have joined the new group’s founding committee.

Joining Mr Andrews on the committee are: Catholic Church Insurances and CCI Investment management strategic planner and manager Helga Birgden; ChristianSuper executive director Paul Beckman; Urban Seed executive director Paul Ronalds; Glebe Asset Management company secretary Peter MacLean; Uniting Church in Australia executive director Sue Norman; and Christian Financial Services executive director David Payton.

The growing demand from Christians for ethical investments was highlighted earlier this year when Christian Super’s Paul Beckman said 70 per cent of its new members were opting to invest their super earnings into one of two ethically directed investments managed by AMP Henderson and Westpac.

More than $10 million is invested in ethical options by 12 per cent of the fund’s members. The fund has almost 8,000 members, with more than $100 million in total assets.

However, a joint survey of 2,000 Australians by ASSIRT and Challenger International indicates that there still is a general lack of knowledge in companies and ethical investment alternatives that balance financial performance with social and environmental concerns.

ASSIRT market research manager Vanessa McMahon said the survey found that ethical investments was the one investment sector that was being largely ignored by the financial services community and investors.

“While the majority of investors are open to these types of investments, only one in 10 has discussed them with a financial planner,” she said.

“Australians are very receptive to ethical investments. They want to know more about them but appear to lack the information required to make an informed investment decision.”

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