The Church Commissioners for England have appointed Olga Hancock as the new head of responsible investment.
She succeeds Bess Joffe, who held the role from August 2020 before leaving Church Commissioners in April this year.
Hancock joined the Church Commissioners in 2019 as a senior engagement analyst and became deputy head of responsible investment in 2021.
She chairs the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) policy committee and is co-chair and co-founder of the Investor Policy Dialogue on Deforestation in Indonasia.
She also sits on the steering committee of the Finance Sector Deforestation Action and was recently elected head of the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance Policy Workstream.
Tom Joy, chief investment officer for Church Commissioners, said: “The Church Commissioners has long championed responsible and ethical investment, challenging the companies in which we invest to maintain good governance, and look after people and the planet.”
Vote against directors
As part of the Church of England’s long standing commitment to act on corporate climate lobbying, the Church said it would vote against the re-election of National Grid’s chair Paula Rosput Reynolds and chief executive officer John Pettigrew.
This is due to their failure to produce disclosure on the company’s lobbying activities on climate change, the Church claimed. The vote will be lodged in advance of the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in July, it added.
The Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB) will also vote against a resolution, put forward by National Grid management, requesting shareholder support to make large political donations, up to £125,000.
Laura Hill, director of climate and environment at CEPB, said that as a Climate Action 100+ company, National Grid has been urged by shareholders, including the CEPB, to produce regular, transparent disclosures on its own climate policy positions and that of its industry associations.
She said: “Unfortunately, despite repeated efforts to engage this company on this issue, they have not yet committed to produce a report.
“The company is now one of only two European utilities engaged by Climate Action 100+ to have failed to provide its investors with this disclosure.”
For this reason, Hill added, “we are voting against the re-election of the chair and CEO, who are responsible for providing clear, timely and transparent disclosure on important issues to the company’s shareholders.”
Back in May, the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England’s £10bn endowment fund, said it would vote against all directors at the upcoming AGM of Exxon, Occidental Petroleum, Shell, and Total, in response to their failure to meet climate change objectives.
This comes just after the Church of England’s recently published stewardship report detailing its engagement on mining safety, executive pay, human rights and climate change.
The report detailed how in 2022 the Church of England voted at company AGMs (with 21,950 ballots voted), how it screens companies (with 554 excluded from investment in 2022), and the impact of its interventions on a range of social and environmental issues.
It added that the pensions board has supported and advised the Institute for Committed Action in South Africa to lead “courageous conversations” with the CEOs of mining companies, trade union leaders, community leaders and government ministers, to build a shared vision for the mining industry in South Africa.
The board has also supported efforts to address the legacy of tailings dams following a collapse of a dam in Jagersfontein, South Africa, which killed two people and caused significant environmental impacts.
A national effort to risk-assess all legacy dams is now underway and the board said it is championing this as an example for other countries to follow.
During 2022 the pensions board said it led a UK pension fund initiative of 12 pension funds with over £400bn in total assets, serving 18 million pension fund members, to support the energy transition in emerging market economies such as South Africa.
The initiative has concluded a public consultation on principles for emerging market transition, aiming to reshape global investor frameworks to ensure emerging markets and developing countries are treated fairly and supported in achieving their transition objectives.