The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) has sold shares worth £1.9 million in the mining company Vedanta because of its plans to mine bauxite from a mountain in Lanjigarh and the Niyamgiri Hills, in the state of Orissa, which are sacred to the area’s Kondh tribal people. JRCT’s disinvestment follows similar action taken the previous week by the Church of England; other third sector investors, including the Millfield House Foundation, have also sold their shares in the company.
According to Susan Seymour, chair of JRCT’s investment committee, the trustees ‘were not convinced Vedanta was addressing shareholder concerns quickly enough to avoid destroying people’s lives and creating irreversible damage to the environment.’ The move underlines what she termed the charity’s activist investment approach, an approach famously illustrated in 2007 when the Trust sold shares worth £2 million in Reed Elsevier because of the publishing company’s involvement in arms fairs, through its subsidiary companies, and its refusal to relinquish them despite a three-year campaign.
In the present case, a spokeswoman for Vedanta said: ‘Vedanta remains fully committed to pursuing its investments in a responsible manner, respecting the environment and human rights.’ However, the move to disinvest in the company is bound to raise questions about its claim that ‘sustainable development is a key part of Vedanta’s strategy and overall ethos.’
Third Sector Online, 17 February 2010
Alliance, March 2007
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