Farm animal welfare

Preamble

The CFB published a position paper on Farm Animal Welfare in 2017, which considers ethical issues as they affect farm animal welfare. Other areas in which animals can be used or exploited such as testing, entertainment, clothing, or as pets, may be covered by other areas of CFB work. This policy statement therefore concerns farm animal welfare issues as they affect cattle (dairy, beef and veal), pigs, sheep, poultry (including broiler and laying hens, ducks, turkeys and geese) and farmed and wild fish.

The position paper considers the biblical and theological background to farm animal welfare, ethical issues related to farm animal welfare and seeks to determine the appropriate response from the CFB.

Biblical and Theological Background

Genesis 1 declares the creatures made on each day good without reference to other creatures. While legitimate human use of animals seems widely assumed in the Bible, the Bible does not state that God made animals merely for human use. Genesis 1 gives humans dominion over other creatures and distinguishes them as bearing the image of God (Gen. 1:26–28), but this is understood to be a relationship of care on behalf of God, to whom the animals belong (Ps. 50:10–11).

Fish feature widely in the gospel stories: Jesus calls the disciples away from their work as fishermen to fish for people instead (Mk 1:17 || Mt 4:19), miraculously feeds vast crowds with bread and fish (Mk 6:35–44 || Mt 14:15–21), and miraculously increases the catch of the disciples and cooks fish for them in one of his resurrection appearances (Jn 21:4–9).

Many Christian stories of the saints associate Christian holiness with compassion towards animals, such as St Jerome removing a thorn from a lion who came to seek his help, St Macarius healing the blind pup of a hyena, St Godric hiding a stag from the Bishop of Durham’s hunt, or St Werburgh of Chester resurrecting a goose her steward had killed. St Francis was renowned for seeing animals as sisters and brothers. In one story he asked a boy taking trapped doves to the market to give them to him, after which he freed them, spoke sweetly to them as his sisters, and made a dovecote for them.

John Wesley was concerned about animals throughout his adult life. He wrote an undergraduate essay on the question of whether animals had souls, copied into his journal a long letter he received about the Christian duty of caring for animals, and published two different books affirming God’s care for animal creatures. In his famous sermon on Romans 8, ‘The General Deliverance’, preached in 1781, he states that Paul could not be clearer in affirming that animals will be part of God’s redeemed creation, and that this knowledge should make Christians concerned about the many cruelties inflicted on them.

The Methodist Statement on ‘The Treatment of Animals’ was adopted by Conference in 1980. It rejects unnecessary experimentation, intensive factory farming practices that do not consider the welfare of animals, and cruel blood sports.

Current issues around Farm Animal Welfare

Farm Animal Welfare is concerned with the livelihood of animals being reared, transported and slaughtered for human consumption. Animals are sentient beings, with the ability to feel both positive and negative emotions. Due to an increase in the demand for meat for an ever growing population, the farming structure has changed from rural small holdings to large concentrated feeding operations (CAFO). A CAFO is a system of rearing livestock by which animals are kept confined under strictly controlled conditions, generally for monetary gain. With the increase in factory farming and therefore yield, farm animal welfare has suffered, with confinement, mutilation, and conscious slaughter all commonplace.

Within the global farming industry the majority of animals, including fish, are kept in systems which are highly intensive. Within these systems animals are routinely kept in confined spaces where movement is severely restricted. Many animals in intensive farming systems are routinely mutilated, often without any pain relief, in ways which cause immediate and long term pain and distress. Animals are transported often during their lifetimes, and most are transported to slaughter. This can take place by rail, road, sea or air, and can often be over very long distances and durations in poor conditions.

Humane slaughter requires that animals are rendered unconscious before they are slaughtered through pre-slaughter stunning. This ensures that the animals are not exposed to stress, pain or discomfort in the slaughter process. Well designed animal facilities and equipment that is in good working condition can reduce the likelihood of poor animal welfare. The correct positioning of equipment for pre stunning is imperative to ensure pain elimination for animals prior to slaughter.

Farmed fish are reared in an intensive environment. Many farmed fish are often subjected to starvation before slaughter and in many cases are left to suffocate or are gutted and left to die causing much pain and distress. Wild fishing practices can also have negative welfare implications. Many fishing practices involve using nets to catch fish which also trap non-target organisms such as turtles and other air-breathing mammals which quickly drown. Fish and by-catch organisms caught in trawler nets can be dragged along the seabed for many miles causing pain, distress and death.

The use of growth promoting hormones or low dose antibiotics to stimulate growth has become common practice in the intensive farming industry. These are used to increase the amount of muscle or milk produced by animals but has serious implications for their welfare. The non-therapeutic use of antibiotics happens throughout the intensive farming industry. Poor conditions increase the likelihood of factors compromising the animals’ immune system, such as stress, selective breeding, and disease. The industry therefore relies on the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics to compensate for the low welfare environment. The prolonged overuse of antibiotics is said to be among the main cause of growing antibiotic resistance in humans.

Policy: Farm Animal Welfare

The CFB invests in food producers, processors, hospitality and food retail companies that use animal related goods and therefore animal welfare is an issue that the CFB will seek to respond to, through engagement with companies. The CFB recognises the complex issues surrounding the production of fish, meat and dairy products for consumption and the increased demand placed on farmers. The CFB also recognises animals as sentient beings. In terms of investment, the CFB views Farm Animal Welfare as predominately a matter for engagement.

Higher welfare farming, in which the welfare of the animal is considered first, is preferred. This aims to allow animals to live in surroundings similar to their natural habitats, while ensuring they are protected from thirst, hunger, fear and extreme weather. However, this style of farming cannot emulate the production capacity of factory farming and is generally more expensive due to the lower yield.

The CFB will favour companies with exposure to farm animals where there is a formal policy on animal welfare and a clear position on more specific farm animal welfare-related issues such as the use of antibiotics, animal mutilations, slaughter, close confinement, and live transportation.

At a governance level, the CFB will look at:

  • Whether the company assigns senior management responsibility and accountability for farm animal welfare.
  • Whether it sets farm animal welfare-related objectives and targets, and ensures that these are included in employee bonus/reward schemes.
  • The resilience of the company’s management systems and processes in place to audit and monitor animal welfare standards in its supply chain, ensuring transparent reporting to consumers.
  • Whether the company has product lines assured to higher farm animal welfare standards.
  • The company’s attitude towards engaging with key stakeholders (e.g. animal welfare NGOs such as Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare) to understand current practice and industry expectations.
  • Company investment in projects dedicated to advancing farm animal welfare practices and the promotion of farm animal welfare to consumers through education or awareness raising activities.

The CFB will also look at other issues such as health and safety and climate change issues as well as farm animal welfare whilst assessing companies. However, in the case where a company persistently resists engagement due to unacceptably poor standards of animal welfare, the CFB may choose ultimately to divest.

November 2017

Prisons

Key issues

The state detains people through a number of institutions: for example prisons, young offender institutions and immigration detention centres. For the purpose of this statement ‘prison’ includes all such institutions.

The trend towards outsourcing in the fields of prisons and prisoner transport has led to publicly listed companies being involved in these activities both as operators and as owners.

The Methodist Church accepts the necessity of the existence of prisons while emphasising the importance of the humane treatment of prisoners.

There are approximately 180 Free Church Chaplains to prisons, and Prisons Sunday is a regular feature in the Methodist Church calendar. Many individual Methodist churches undertake work with ex- prisoners. In 2007, the Methodist Church, in response to a government consultation, argued in favour of prisoners having the right to vote.

The Methodist Church supported the campaign to abolish the death penalty in the 1950s and 1960s in Britain, and continues to oppose the death penalty.

The Epworth position paper on issues involving children recognises the acute vulnerability of children especially when they are in custody, and the need for them to be protected from harm. Responses from Action for Children to government consultations stress the importance of rehabilitating and transforming prisoners.

The Methodist Church campaigns strongly against the detention of children and families in immigration detention centres.

Policy

Investment in companies operating prisons is ethically acceptable in principle.

Investment in companies owning prisons (e.g. through PFI contracts) is ethically acceptable in principle.

Investment in companies operating or owning prisons in which the death penalty is carried out is not acceptable.

Investment in companies operating or owning prisons in jurisdictions in which the death penalty is carried out, but not in those prisons run or owned by the company is likely to be acceptable.

Children are detained in prison for offences that they have committed; due to offences committed by others (e.g. babies too young to be separated from their mothers); and due to their families facing deportation under immigration or asylum laws. Before Epworth invests in any company operating or owning prisons in which children are detained, their operating regimes will be examined with particular care.

Before investing in any company operating or owning prisons, Epworth will seek to ensure that all such facilities operate in accordance with best practice.

Pornography

Introduction

In October 2000, a number of themes were identified in a position paper Media Ethics, which included brief reference to pornography. An Epworth Media Policy was published in March 2001 and amended in November 2011 as the Epworth Policy Statement on Media Ethics. To complement this and to provide specific guidance on pornography from an investment perspective, the Epworth Policy Statement on Pornography has now been approved.

A decline in Judeo-Christian influence has weakened intellectual efforts in society to oppose pornographic content in the media, especially where consent is implied. This has been coupled with greater and wider availability and access via digital and electronic formats.

Methodist teaching affirms that we are made in the image of God and that before Him, men and women are equal. Material that undermines this position falls short of the ideal and is a cause for concern.

However, context is important. Accurate, and sometimes graphic, war reportage can be justified in the pursuit of truth and justice as part of conflict journalism. Content that explores a sexual or violent dimension pertaining to human experience or the human condition may also be valid in the arts and literature. The Christian must, therefore, take care in reaching informed judgements. Where produced and distributed for its own ends without appropriate legitimate context, it may not be acceptable; for example, pornographic films or magazines viewed or screened for the sexual enjoyment of consumers rather than for their dramatic or educational content.

There may also be civil liberty issues to take into account. Ultimately, Biblical teaching applies to all, although not everyone will subscribe to that view. The Church is therefore called to interact and engage where pornographic content is available and where there is an insistence on the right to view. Freedom to choose has always been part of the created order, but for the Christian, the prevalence of pornographic material deviates from the ideal, not least when the exploitation of humans is undertaken for commercial gain.

Definitions

The Methodist Church recognises that definitions of pornography and the erotic can be subjective. In the context of this ethical investment policy pornography is taken to mean:

“the portrayal of sexual subject matter in words or images for the primary purpose of sexual arousal. Within this broad definition pornography can relate to less explicit forms of portrayal, often termed “soft pornography”, and which are largely unregulated and widely available in modern society and “harder” forms of pornography, which are generally regulated and often restricted to an over 18 clientele.

Other forms of pornography, such as that involving children or animals or other “extreme pornographic images” (defined in law largely as seriously violent or grossly offensive), are illegal to produce and a criminal act to possess.”

Policy

Epworth will seek to balance competing demands: to reflect in its investment policy that pornography degrades, exploits, manipulates and deviates from the ideal of God’s Kingdom, whilst noting that it is also more widely available and sometimes demanded, in ever more extreme forms. Therefore:

Companies are expected to operate wholly within the law (domestic and international) and to take swift corrective action to prohibit and proscribe any activity (such as hosting websites) that is judged illegal or criminal;

Companies, a major part of whose business activity is engaged in the production, transmission, publication or distribution of pornographic content should be avoided;

A distinction between production and distribution/transmission remains valid, except where distribution, transmission, marketing and promotion are pronounced.

Companies involved in production will be considered case by case as there are likely to be some instances where the activity, however small, will be unacceptable, in particular:

  • Publishers of pornographic print media;
  • Owner producers of pornographic television channels;
  • Owner producers of pornographic media formats such as film, video and games;
  • Owners of pornographic digital, virtual or online content such as websites.

Mobile telecommunication companies that facilitate the transmission of pornographic content will be assessed according to the strength of the controls in place to protect vulnerable groups. Mobile telecommunication companies that seek to derive material revenue from the provision of pornographic content will be subject to greater scrutiny and engagement, which may lead to disinvestment.

In keeping with our general policy, companies owning or operating premises providing pornographic experiences or live shows will be subject to investment exclusion.

Investment avoidance based on the contribution to company revenues alone is not appropriate and needs to be accompanied by qualitative ethical judgements based on the principles outlined in this Policy Statement.

In keeping with Epworth policy, engagement will often be the most appropriate response in cases of broadcast, transmission and retail of pornographic material where this is not the main business, and may, in part, be based on the protection of vulnerable groups via age or access restriction. Such instances may include:

  • The retailing and siting of pornographic magazines and print media within high-street store chains;
  • The protection of taste and decency standards including age, access and encryption restriction by broadcasters;
  • The publishing of pornographic and non-educational sexual content in teen and young persons media;
  • The protection of minors via age, access and encryption restriction by premium telephone line providers;
  • The protection of minors via age, access and encryption restriction by Internet service providers hosting web sites, chat-rooms, blogging sites and other social and interactive media.

December 2011

Mining companies and other extractive industries

Preamble

The theology of creation proclaims the consistent message of Christian stewardship, of humanity’s obligation to care for the earth and its creatures.

The Connexional Team’s 1991 report Floods & Rainbows – Christian Faith Concerning the Environment calls upon Christians to create a new political will to respect nature, heal its wounds, clean up pollution, control the demands made upon it, and develop new appropriate lifestyles.

Caring for the Earth, an Environmental Policy for the Methodist Church was produced in 1999. This affirms that Christian mission includes caring for God’s earth and commits the Church to develop both theology and the practical implications of this on a continuing basis. It encourages Methodists to take into account global and local environmental considerations for present and future generations, and to look for opportunities for co-operation and joint initiatives with other Churches on environmental initiatives.

The position paper on Theology and the Environment notes that Epworth’s investment decisions have an effect on the conservation of the world’s resources, and so form part of the Church’s stewardship of the earth. This is surely a challenge that Epworth is obliged to meet.

Historically Epworth has been wary of investing in mining shares on ethical grounds. However, in 1996 the Joint Advisory Committee recognised that civilisation could not function without metals such as iron aluminium and copper that therefore contribute to a higher standard of living for millions of people. Consequently it was affirmed that mining and other extractive industries were an acceptable area for investment by Epworth.

Whilst owning shares of companies producing non-precious metals may be acceptable, the case for mining companies producing mainly precious metals and diamonds may seem less compelling. However it is important to note that precious metals such as silver and platinum are widely used in industrial applications. The distinction between ‘precious’ and ‘non-precious’ metals is therefore less clear cut than used to be the case.

In its Report to the 1997 Conference the Joint Advisory Committee stated its belief that nuclear power had certain environmental advantages, subject of course to the most stringent safety requirements. The Committee noted that the long-term disposal of nuclear waste remained an issue, but it felt that all forms of energy production had environmental drawbacks. It therefore decided that the production of uranium for peaceful purposes was not to be regarded as ethically problematic. Since that time there has been growing recognition of the benefits of nuclear power in respect of climate change, although safety requirements now include the threat of terrorism.

In 1999 the world’s largest mining companies established the Global Mining Initiative, indicating a willingness to enter into dialogue with NGOs on social and environmental questions. (This ended in may 2002, being succeeded by the International Council on Mining and Metals.) Epworth should to continue to participate in this process by engaging in discussions with individual mining companies.

The key issues

Mining and the oil and gas sector pose distinct challenges to ethical assessment by investors. Some issues of particular relevance to these sectors of the economy are set out below:

Health and safety

A clear and effective company policy to minimise accidents, and to safeguard the health and safety of local people affected by its operations is essential.

Respect for, and consultation with local communities

Consultation with local communities is required where mining may have a major impact upon the social and physical environment and upon local people. Respect for the views of local communities should be the basis on which the consultations are made.

Transparency and revenue sharing

Revenue-sharing agreements and anti-corruption measures are extremely important. Measures to increase local value-added in developing countries, and to train local staff are to be encouraged.

Human rights

The need to find reserves in developing countries also brings a heightened risk of being implicated in human rights abuses, particularly when they take place in conflict zones. Companies operating in such difficult areas should possess clear and effective policies to minimise possible human rights abuses.

Labour issues

Like all companies operating in developing countries, mining and energy companies need to be aware of the risk of the illicit use of forced labour or child labour, as well as avoiding racial or sexual discrimination.

Sustainable development

  1. The large ‘environmental footprint’ of mining and oil and gas operations means that companies need to have effective accounting and internal management control systems in order to monitor and minimise the environmental impact of their activities. Clear lines of management accountability for the environment should be visible. This might include having a main board director with environmental responsibility, or other management control mechanisms.
  2. Companies should have a policy to eliminate pollution and to facilitate remediation of polluted or spoiled sites, and publish indicators of their effectiveness in doing so. External environmental verification is also to be encouraged.
  3. Producers of fossil fuels should indicate potential contribution to global warming, and describe their company’s long-term path to the production of more sustainable fuels.
  4. Companies should be prepared to produce reports on the environmental impact of their operations.

Policy

An acceptable area for investment

Epworth believes that the mining and energy industries are ethically acceptable areas for investment in their own right.

Best in class

As with all business sectors, we must recognise that it may not be possible to find any ethically acceptable company. However, it seems appropriate to try to identify the key issues of ethical concern. These can then be used in order to be able to assess, monitor, and influence the companies involved and identify the best in class. Companies in the sector should be continually striving to improve their performance in areas like health, safety and the environment. Epworth as long term shareholders should be supportive of their efforts to improve.

Good practice

Epworth should have a preferential policy of investing in companies demonstrating good corporate practice by signing up to internationally recognised guidelines. For example the United Nations guidelines on human rights and the use of security services and provide one good example, as do the core International Labour Organisation guidelines on human rights in the workplace.

Engagement

Epworth actively includes the environment in its concern for social justice. We should aim to encourage best practice by constructive dialogue with company management on the above issues.

Shareholder activism

Owning shares in mining companies will give Epworth a more powerful voice in discussion, and we should seek to use voting rights.

November 2002

Contractors supplying military and security services

Preamble

Epworth policy towards Companies with Military Exposure is outlined in a separate statement. This paper applies Epworth policy to Private Military Companies (PMCs) and Private Security Companies (PSCs) which use armed personnel to provide security services.

The private security industry is estimated to be worth in the region of $100 billion and employs tens of thousands [1]. The Iraq war beginning in 2003 saw a major escalation in the industry, with perhaps 20- 30,000 personnel employed in Iraq alone [2], with considerable sums involved. For example, the Blackwater company was awarded over $832 million in contracts from the US Federal Government between 2004–2006 [3] : the UK firm Aegis Defence Services was reported to have been awarded a $430 million Pentagon contract to oversee all private security contractors in Iraq [4]. There is a number of other UK companies supplying armed personnel, though little exposure via the listed securities market.

Reporting on the use of such contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, Human Rights First proposes the following definition:

  • “the use of private personnel with ‘a core mission to protect people (other than themselves) or things, to include guarding government (and contractors’) facilities, protecting government personnel (and other government contractors) and United Nations (U.N.) and other international organization staff as well, and providing security for convoys” [5]

The use of non-government armed personnel is often regarded as a necessity, however regrettable. For example, in addition to the UN and governments non-governmental organisations such as development charities, and on occasion church representatives, use such personnel, sometimes locally sourced. PSCs are employed by many branches of government (for example, the UK Department for International Development spent 278 million of its Iraq reconstruction budget on security services [6]). Such assistance is often deemed necessary where national armed forces are unable or refuse to provide protection.

Epworth policy recognises that weapons and systems which support their use are not morally neutral, since they are destructive of life. The employment of security contractors should be considered in the same light.

Considerable concern has been expressed about inappropriate use of force by private contractors. A Human Rights First report notes:

“The most recurrent violations involve the use of lethal force against civilians in what the private security contractors call “convoy protection”. Convoys often speed down the wrong side of the road, use gunfire to warn off civilians, and routinely fire on civilian vehicles in response to perceived threats. Although some incidents involving the questionable use of force by contractors against civilians and other alleged contractor abuse have been reported in the press or through official channels, few have been investigated and almost none have been prosecuted.” [7] There can be grave implications for relationships with the local population and the potential for spirals of violence to occur.

The most serious incident involving private security contractors may have occurred on 17th September, 2007, when guards from the US security firm Blackwater shot on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, killing 17 people [8]. Human Rights First’s review of 610 Serious Incident Reports filed between July 2004 and April 2005 showed that 61% of the incidents concerned contractors firing on unarmed civilians [9].

The relationship between national armed forces and security contractors may not always be clear, particularly where governments have poor regard for human rights.

Areas of ethical concern

Companies involved in providing private military or security services to government, corporate, or NGO clients may be more directly involved in armed conflict than companies providing military equipment or services.

Private military contractors may prevent harm and may be more akin to police than national armies, thereby raising fewer ethical concerns. Nevertheless, private armed forces do not always have clear lines of accountability and democratic control and can be used as substitutes for national forces. The application of the Christian Just War tradition to the use of private forces is not straightforward.

Private contractors may employ personnel less well-trained than those in the armed forces, under less well-developed chains of command, and with less accountability. The use of contractors in place of military personnel may therefore increase the risk of inappropriate use of force in some areas of conflict.

Policy

Epworth policy Companies with Military Exposure must be specifically applied to the provision of private military or security services by a company. Such services may be regarded as raising more concern than the provision of offensive weapons.

For the purposes of investment, a company’s exposure to the provision of private military or security services will only be tolerated if it does not form a significant proportion of its overall activity, is clearly conducted in a well-regulated environment with clear rules of engagement subject to legal scrutiny, and is not deployed as a substitute for national armed forces.

References

  1. Carmola, Kateri. (2010) ‘Private Security Contractors and New Wars London’, London : Routledge
  2. Corporate Watch. ‘Bodies of Armed Men’, www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=2481
  3. Human Rights First. (2008) ‘Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity’,www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf, p 7.
  4. Corporate Watch. ‘Bodies of Armed Men’, www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=2481
  5. Human Rights First. (2008) ‘Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity’, www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf, p 1
  6. Corporate Watch. ‘Bodies of Armed Men’, www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=2481
  7. Human Rights First. (2008) ‘Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity’, www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf, p iii–iv.
  8. Guardian, ‘Blackwater guards shot Iraqis without provocation, report says’, www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/oct/08/usa.iraq
  9. Human Rights First. (2008) ‘Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity’, www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf, p 10

Military exposed companies

Preamble

Human life and peace are to be supported, celebrated, and affirmed. ‘From the beginnings of salvation history in the Garden of Eden, to its end in the New Jerusalem, the Bible witnesses to the profound value of life and peace.’ (Peacemaking – A Christian Vocation)

Peacemaking is a Christian vocation that all should pursue to prevent violent conflict and the suffering and death it causes.

Many Methodists accept that armed forces are necessary, although a pacifist tradition also resides within the Methodist Church. The use of armed force must be as a last resort and determined according to ethical, as well as strategic, criteria. The Methodist Conference 2006 endorsed the Methodist Church/United Reformed Church document, Peacemaking – A Christian Vocation, which provides a useful summary of theological issues relating to the use of armed force.

Armed forces can have peacemaking and peacekeeping functions. They can also be used to destroy peace and promote war, death, pain, and destruction.

Weapons themselves are not morally neutral. Weapons and systems that support their use are intrinsically destructive of life and producing them is justifiable only within very stringent safeguards.

The global arms trade has made weapons of all sorts widely available and has significantly contributed to armed conflicts around the world. Governments often do not appear to regard the ethical implications of the arms trade with the seriousness it deserves.

Christians face a difficult dilemma: it may be appropriate in certain circumstances to call for armed intervention but Christians may feel uneasy profiting from the arms sales necessary for governments to follow such a call.

Areas of ethical concern

The global arms trade is a matter of ethical concern because it has tended to promote armed conflict and damage the cause of peace.

Trade in arms is necessary if nations, including the United Kingdom, are to have armed forces. However, it is not always possible to determine the destination of a company’s military sales. The regulation of trade in weapons is not sufficiently strict because it does not exclude countries with poor human rights.

Some products are specifically designed for military use (e.g. missiles) and some military-related services may be unique.

It is useful to make the distinction between military equipment designed primarily for offensive use and that designed for defensive purposes. However, equipment can be difficult to categorise. In some cases the relevant category may be determined by the theatre of military operation or the reason for a conflict. In addition, defensive equipment may enhance offensive capability.

The Methodist Church is opposed to proliferation of nuclear weapons. Methodist Conference in 2006 opposed the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system and urged ‘…the UK Government to take leadership in disarmament negotiations in order to bring about the intention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.’

There have been successful efforts to limit the proliferation and use of biological and chemical weapons and Methodism would support these efforts continuing. While such weapons ‘…do not provide a threat on anything approaching the same scale as nuclear weapons, and so do not justify the same responses’, (Peacemaking – A Christian Vocation) a distinction from conventional weapons should be made.

The Methodist Church is opposed to cluster munitions (Methodist Conference 2003) and is concerned at the ease with which nations and groups can acquire small arms.

Some products and services have more general use or application but can be required for the military with a variety of degrees of adjustment. Some companies run military bases or non-military services within bases.

It is appropriate for some policing to be armed. However, police forces in some countries may use excessive force or even torture. Sales of equipment to such forces would not be considered appropriate.

There may be negative environmental impacts from certain products or services.

Concern has in the past been expressed as the proportion of total revenue or earnings from military sales approached or exceeded 20%. However, this proportion may be considered too high in the case of offensive weaponry sold to countries with poor human rights.

Policy

The Methodist Church should aim to avoid benefiting financially from the provision of military and related products and services where this might increase the probability of conflict and human rights abuses.

The extent of a company’s exposure to military-related products and services will be assessed in terms of the proportion of revenue and, where possible, earnings. Companies with a high exposure will be avoided.

Consideration will be given to the type of product or service offered.

Exposure to products and services specifically designed for military use will raise the level of concern and close attention will be paid to the degree of exposure. Exposure to products and services primarily designed for other uses will also raise concerns but a higher exposure will be acceptable in such cases.

In considering the type of exposure, distinctions will be made between:

  • Defensive systems and components (mainly electronics and mechanical components)
  • fighting platforms (e.g. ships) and systems (guidance and target identification)
  • weapons (including bullets, shells, and missiles)

Where the destination of military sales can be specifically identified, it may allay concerns if sales are to countries deemed acceptable. In other cases it will be assumed that sales may be to countries with poor human rights records.

The Methodist Church should aim to avoid benefiting financially from the promotion of the arms trade.

The environmental impact of products or services for military customers will be considered.

In some cases positive benefits from other activities of a company may offset concerns over military exposure.

Media

Introduction

The CFB Media Ethical Policy published in March 2001 recognised that the ethical dimensions of investment in media related companies were becoming increasingly important due to the pervasive advent of electronic media. As the lines between different types of media are increasingly blurred, it is important that the CFB applies a consistent methodology in this area, given the particular ethical challenges and complexities investment in media presents. This CFB Policy Statement on Media Ethics has now been amended in light of the publication of the CFB Policy Statement on Pornography (November 2011), which it complements.

Ethical themes

The CFB recognises that many aspects of the media have positive ethical influences on society with the ability to educate, entertain and inspire individual experience. However, a number of negative ethical themes were also identified in the Position paper, Media Ethics. These included:

  1. Promotion of lifestyles at variance with the Christian message
  2. Sexual imagery and licentious content
  3. Violence
  4. Facilitation of gambling and gaming
  5. Links to product marketing, advertising and sponsorship
  6. Invasion of privacy and prurience without public interest
  7. Abuse of power
  8. Deception
  9. Racism and xenophobia
  10. Blasphemy
  11. Religious intolerance

Questions to be considered

The CFB and JACEI recognise that a qualitative, rather than a purely quantitative judgement is required when considering the ethics of media investment; some or all of the following questions therefore need to be considered:

  1. What is the Biblical interpretation or Church teaching on particular activities?
  2. To what extent can the activity or output be deemed unethical?
  3. How should the activity or output be classified on a scale of concern ranging, perhaps, from ‘extremely harmful’ to ‘mildly offensive’?
  4. How accessible is the activity or output, particularly to vulnerable groups?
  5. Is the company under review proactive in commissioning inappropriate product, or merely passive in allowing its services to act as a conduit for others?
  6. How important in revenue or business terms is the questionable output to the company under review and is the activity or output growing as part of a concerted corporate strategy?
  7. Is the company a producer/publisher or distributor/transmitter of questionable output?
  8. Finally, can principles drawn from previous CFB decisions be used as a guide in assessing the activity under review in order to ensure a consistent approach?

General media investment policy summary

The following general principles are recommended when considering investment in media companies:

  1. A distinction between production and distribution may be appropriate.
  2. Any criminal or illegal activity such as the gathering or misuse of private information will require swift enquiry to determine a suitable course of action
  3. An attempt will be made to differentiate and understand the level of ethical concern attached to any activity under review.
  4. Consideration should be given to the weight that may be attached to any positive influences.
  5. There are likely to be certain activities where any exposure will be unacceptable. In such cases the companies involved should be avoided
  6. Limits on acceptable exposure to questionable activities will be decided on a case-by-case basis and by reference to previous decisions taken where appropriate.
  7. Given that for the majority of companies exposure to questionable activities will be a very small proportion of the total business, a policy of constructive engagement will be the most common and progressive approach.

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

Preamble

The Methodist Church, recognising the Holocaust and the centuries of persecution suffered by Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere, affirms the legitimate security fears of both Israelis and Palestinians. The Methodist Conference of 2002 stated the Methodist position that a return to the borders of 1967, and a status for Jerusalem as a place for two nations and three faiths, with parity of esteem, is the real basis upon which trust could be built up among the different communities.

In 2010, Methodist Conference received the report Justice for Palestine and Israel. The Conference adopted a resolution supporting a consumer boycott of settlement projects and accepted a circuit memorial calling for the actions of companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be taken into account in investment decisions.

The Methodist Church has:

  • condemned suicide bombings and called on Palestinian groups to recognise the right of Israel to exist
  • expressed anxiety over actions of the Israeli Defence Forces that have failed to discriminate between armed militants and civilians
  • expressed increasing humanitarian concern over the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
  • opposed the Israeli government’s policy of settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories and the building of the separation wall that has damaged the livelihoods of so many Palestinians
  • acknowledged the fear of ordinary Israelis who feel, increasingly insecure
  • drawn attention to the perspectives of the three Abramic faiths in relation to Israel, and acknowledges competing theological standpoints within the Christian tradition
  • made statements on Israel and Palestine on several occasions in recent years, notably in 2003, when it expressed concern for the desperate humanitarian plight of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories
  • asked Methodists to be aware of the origins of produce, particularly produce sourced from Israeli administered areas of the Occupied Territories, with a view to avoiding their purchase
  • recognised the right of all Israelis and Palestinians to exercise proportionate and appropriate security measures in difficult times

Key Issues

Occupation
Israel’s expansion into Palestinian territory has deprived many of livelihoods, pasture and water resources. Israel controls 60% of the water resources in the West Bank, whilst settlement expansion, together with the geography of the separation wall, has called into question the viability of a future contiguous Palestinian State within its own secure borders.

Separation Barrier/Wall
The separation barrier/wall, as well as attempting to minimise the risk to Israel of terrorist attack, is widely seen as a mechanism to establish new “facts on the ground”, in that it has not been constructed in accordance with 1967 boundaries and therefore constitutes a de facto annexation of additional parts of the West Bank. It has thereby served to isolate and “imprison” communities (such as the largely Christian community of Bethlehem), preventing access to employment, land and services (such as timely emergency medical response). The barrier/wall represents an impediment to lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

Violations of International Law
The Government of Israel contests the application of certain aspects of international law as regards the Occupied Territories. However, successive Security Council Resolutions indicate that the continued expansion of West Bank settlements have implications under the fourth Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention makes specific reference to economic activity, denying an occupying power the right to derive economic benefit from occupation. The UK Government (following the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice) maintains the view that the building of the separation barrier/wall within the Occupied Territories is unlawful. Demolition of Palestinian houses, the uprooting of olive groves and the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank represent a contravention of international law.

Violence
Israel and Palestine have become trapped in an escalating cycle of serious crises and violence. The IDF often fails to discriminate between militias and civilians; many of those killed have included children. Palestinian militia in Gaza have launched thousands of rocket attacks against Israel and Israeli settlements. Hamas refuses to renounce the deliberate targeting of civilians, which has resulted in serious casualties and deaths.

Policy

Epworth aims not to invest in any company that is directly or materially involved in activities that are in breach of international law, or is complicit in violations of human rights as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This includes the provision of “right to life” services (such as water, gas or electricity) that may be used materially to disadvantage one community in favour of another.

Epworth seeks to invest in companies that are, or are likely to become, signatories to the UN Global Compact, thereby demonstrating a commitment to align their operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

Epworth’s strategy for influencing change relies primarily on dialogue and constructive engagement with companies. Engagement is pursued until it becomes clear that a company is not open to dialogue or does not respond positively to the concerns that are raised. If engagement fails, then disinvestment is an option that Epworth will consider.

There may be circumstances where the concerns are of such significance, e.g. on the sale of military equipment, that regardless of other considerations, disinvestment becomes the only ethical response.

The focus of Epworth engagement will be to understand the nature, extent and impact of any business operations in the affected areas. A decision to disinvest will be predicated on some or all of the following factors:

  • the severity of the concern including:
    • the extent and significance of the activity that has given cause for concern
    • its impact on individuals and communities
    • whether the activity is core, expanding or is time limited
  • the record of the company on human rights elsewhere and whether it is otherwise progressive
  • the significance of a company’s business in Israel/Palestine within the context of its global operations
  • the contribution, either positive or negative, of the company’s operations to the economy within the affected communities

The areas that might lead Epworth to seek constructive engagement with companies include business interests in any of the following:

  • the provision of equipment or services to the military or police in support of operations in the Occupied Territories
  • the supply of equipment or services to the military or police in support of operations in breach of UN resolutions such as the demolition of homes, olive groves and other infrastructure
  • the construction of facilities or infrastructure within the Israeli administered areas of the Palestinian Occupied Territories
  • the construction, maintenance or management of transport links between Israel and Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories
  • contracts for the supply of materials or associated activities related to the construction of the separation barrier/wall
  • the supply and manufacture of produce, goods and services within Israeli administered areas of the Occupied Territories.
  • appropriate “country of origin” labelling of goods sourced from Palestinian administered areas of the West Bank or Gaza, and implementation of the DEFRA Code of Practice regarding the labelling of settlement originated goods
  • the establishment of new business partnerships with Israeli or Palestinian companies without due regard to any possible human rights implications or their impact on conflict

Companies seeking or maintaining business relationships in Israel and Palestine need to demonstrate that they:

  • have addressed human rights concerns when working within the context of conflict;
  • are conversant with the adjudication of the Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice on practices or issues that have relevance to their operations or contracts;
  • are prepared to engage suppliers in dialogue regarding human rights principles;
  • have taken all reasonable measures to ensure that they cannot be held indirectly complicit in human rights abuses when selling through intermediaries to an end user.

Epworth will also seek to influence companies by encouraging them, where appropriate, to develop opportunities that will enhance the prospect of a viable and sustainable Palestinian economy over time e.g. in sourcing Palestinian produce for export and sale.

December 2016

Human rights and conflict

Preamble

Human rights can be defined as inalienable fundamental rights to which every person is entitled simply by virtue of their being human. Many claim that the concept of rights is strong within the scriptures; God’s endowing of human beings with his image means that humans have worth, and this is a source of rights. It can be discerned from the biblical narrative that God is wronged by injustice and has the right to hold humans accountable for injustice. Thus, for example, in Isaiah 1:17, the prophet says:

  • “Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow”.

However we cannot read from the Bible an unequivocal endorsement for human rights as the scriptures originate from a time long before the development of a concept of intrinsic individual rights. Indeed it is suggested that there are no means of expression in Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic for ‘a subjective right’ until about 1400 AD.

The emphasis in Jewish and Christian traditions of the uniqueness of the individual before God was a significant foundation in the development of modern formulation of human rights theory; diverse Christian influences before and during the 1940s played a prominent role as the institution of the United Nations was being created, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) drafted.

There is some divergence of opinion in many aspects of secular and religious human rights discourse, and this may have significance for the way companies approach and respond to human rights challenges, notably with respect to:

  • The balance between civil and political rights on the one hand, and social, cultural and economic rights on the other, often presented as the main difference in interpretation between developed and developing nation traditions;
  • The nature and role of the nation state in protecting rights
  • The authority for the use of force to protect rights particularly in respect of military intervention in sovereign nation states
  • Individual and/or communal rights to natural capital
  • Whether or how to acknowledge the rights of future generations

Methodist tradition

We can detect from the actions and statements of the Methodist Church a consistent desire for strengthened human rights protection. Statements relating to the rights of Palestinians and Jews in the Middle East, detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and water as a basic human right, are key examples. In 2008 the Joint Public Issues Team of the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Church, published a study/prayer resource to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Issues of concern

Gross human rights abuses are not limited to conflict zones. However in the context of conflict, civil and political rights are particularly threatened. Belligerent parties to conflict (whether state parties or militias) frequently develop business interests or seek to control private enterprise in order to fund their political or military campaigns. Modern conflict all too frequently engulfs local communities through conscription, as hostages, direct targets, or as a result of the activities of criminal militias. When violent conflict comes to an end the parties to conflict may well retain significant influence in their communities. Companies need to be aware of conflict dynamics even after peace has been declared.

Whilst this Policy Statement concentrates on investment, human rights and conflict, it is recognised that companies may be exposed to other human rights risks as a result of their global operations or supply chains. These include:

  • Discrimination (gender, caste, race etc.)
  • Land or property rights
  • Self determination and the right to freedom of movement, freedom from bonded or slave conditions etc.
  • Labour issues including the right to organise, collective bargaining, sufficient rest and leisure etc.
  • A healthy and safe working environment
  • The rights of the child

The expansion of capital investment into new markets in recent decades poses many challenges. There is widespread acknowledgement that in many instances state legislation and institutional capacity for protecting human rights in these markets is insufficient. How the international and business community addresses these governance gaps is therefore a key issue.

Policy statement

We have the following reasonable expectations of companies, particularly those operating in conflict zones, with respect to their performance on human rights.

  1. The company subscribes to recognised international human rights instruments, and is cognisant of the UN Guiding Principles regime of Protect, Respect and Remedy, and can demonstrate how these are reflected in its policies and practice;
  2. Guidelines for human rights due diligence procedures are publically available;
  3. Information is available on what might constitute a ‘material’ human rights risk requiring disclosure to shareholders in financial reports;
  4. Specific attention is paid to conflict sensitive areas where there is a consistent record of egregious human rights abuse. Special measures are considered in such circumstances. These would include ensuring conformity with any home state government’s advice for commercial activity in the specific conflict area; an independently facilitated human rights impact assessment or conflict impact assessment is commissioned and undertaken at an early stage of project development;
  5. There exists a willingness to learn from past experience and to share that learning with shareholders. The learning should inform corporate policy and practice such that companies should be able to enter into dialogue around future contracts, business relationships or practices that they would consider ethical or unethical in a specific context and in the light of past experience;
  6. Joint Venture partners or subsidiaries would be expected to conform to a comparable standard of human rights policy and practice. Business relationships should be reviewed when this is not the case;
  7. The human rights policies of a company detail the expectations of partners within the supply chain or other strategic business partners (including state owned enterprises);
  8. In particularly challenging human rights environments, if it is deemed to be too difficult to avoid complicity in human rights abuses the company shows willingness to suspend its operations. Exceptionally, an alternative course might be justified if a company can demonstrate that through its presence it is influential in bringing about change, or is material to supporting a local community;
  9. In the context of conflict, if it is assessed that the business is having an overall adverse impact on conflict, and that this cannot be remedied, the company should be willing to suspend operations;
  10. Policies are in place for providing access to remedies. Prompt action is taken to hear and consider complaints of human rights abuses, involving external mediation where desirable;
  11. There is transparency of a company’s lobbying of national or international forums on legislative matters in relation to human rights. Companies are willing to support reasonable legislation designed to help close the governance gaps that prevent many from achieving the full realisation of their human rights.

As concerned investors the CFB and the Methodist Church would seek open dialogue and engagement with companies on human rights policy and performance.

Engagement is the principal medium for seeking to bring about an improvement in a company’s policies and practice in respect of human rights.

In instances where there are material concerns, CFB will seek to evaluate, via engagement, the extent to which the specific concern may be indicative of:

  • a systemic failure on the part of the company concerned;
  • the extent to which the company is able to mitigate and improve, and
  • the quality of risk management when entering or continuing operations in territories with acute human rights challenges.

If a company is unwilling to enter into serious dialogue, or to address legitimate, material concerns, JACEI may be asked to take a view on the acceptability of the investment, and ultimately recommend that CFB disinvests.

This might depend on the severity of the concerns in question. Failure to be responsive to a significant human rights issue falling within the fifth, sixth, eighth or ninth points in Para 4.1 above, could give sufficient cause for concern to lead to a decision to recommend disinvestment.

June 2013

Health and Nutrition within the Food and Beverages Industry

Preamble

The CFB published a Policy Statement in 2005 entitled ‘Ethical Issues Relating to the Food Industry’. Growing concerns over poor health, nutritional wellbeing and the global rise in obesity led clinical illness has prompted a review of this Policy. A basis from which to engage more fully with companies on these issues was also recognised.

A Position Paper, ‘Ethical Issues Related to Health and Nutrition within the Food and Beverages Industry’ in support of this Policy Statement, was published in March 2017. This:

  • considered relevant biblical teaching and Methodist tradition;
  • surveyed the ethical issues relating specifically to nutrition, wellbeing and health within the food and beverage industry; and,
  • posed questions regarding health and nutrition issues for engaging with companies from an ethical perspective.

Biblical teaching

The opening chapters of Genesis teach that food is given by God. Both the availability of food and humankind’s attitude to it are affected by the fall, and this good gift is often abused. When food is not used in the way it was intended it can have a detrimental effect on the body and the ability to use it to honour God.

The role of food as an important and central aspect of Christian fellowship is also evident in the New Testament and was an important part of the early Church. Jesus often ate with his followers and at the last supper when he broke the bread and poured the wine, he commanded his followers to “do this in remembrance of me”.

However, there are also clear warnings against the misuse of food in the Bible. Whilst food is a blessing to be received from God with thanksgiving, it can be abused when the true purpose of food or God’s authority over humankind is not acknowledged. When this is the case, other influences such as financial greed, bodily appetite or the opinions of others can determine how individuals and corporations view and use food. As a consequence of the misuse of food, many around the world face the health implications of over-nutrition whilst others face the prospect of malnutrition and its associated problems.

In his sermon, The Good Steward (sermon 51) John Wesley speaks about the role of humankind as steward of all that the Lord has entrusted to them, including food. He goes on to remind believers that they will be called to account for how they have stewarded these goods, the implication being that Christians must use food to preserve health and godliness and ensure that others do not hunger but are treated with love and care.

John Wesley believed that spiritual disciplines which help a Christian grow and mature in loving God, are bound together with acts of justice and compassion through which disciples live out their love for God in the world by loving their neighbours as themselves. Christian perfection is loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself, where the spiritual and practical needs of your neighbour must be recognised. This means that throughout its history, the Methodist Church has sought to address poverty and injustice, including tackling food poverty.

Key Issues

The range of ethical issues within the food and beverages industry is broad, encompassing labour and business ethics; nutrition; health and food security; environmental ethics, and animal welfare among others. This Policy focuses solely on issues related to health and nutrition since these are unique to the food and beverage industry. Other issues, which apply across different sectors, are addressed elsewhere in CFB policy work.

Issues relating to nutrition and health are of major ethical concern when considering the impact of the food industry. It is possible for the activities of companies, whether involved in food production, distribution, or retail, to encourage unhealthy and unbalanced diets, or inhibit access to a healthy, balanced diet. Issues that will need addressing with companies might include, but are not limited to, the following:

Food Security
Food security has been defined as existing when all people have access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious and affordable food to provide the foundation for active and healthy lives. Whilst food security might be seen as more of a challenge for the developing world, even in the UK food poverty is a growing issue. Companies may pose a threat to food security when they do not:

  • adequately manage risks to production and supply whether caused by political instability, weather-related production shortfalls or other influences;
  • control and minimise food waste;
  • make food affordable, accessible or nutritionally balanced;
  • make good use of resources risking food productivity; or,
  • use efficient and sustainable methods for producing and distributing food.

Undernutrition
A lack of food security can lead to undernutrition where there is insufficient access to nutrients from food. Undernutrition can lead to stunting (underdevelopment), wasting (underweight), or vulnerability to infectious disease through immune system compromise. Undernutrition remains a systemic problem affecting millions of people, not just as a result of having insufficient food, but also where sufficient food is lacking in the micronutrients needed to sustain heath and wellbeing. Companies can help to combat undernutrition by making their food products more widely available and by fortifying products with micronutrients.

Obesity
Worldwide, obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight conditions such as obesity kills more people than underweight. Increased BMI is a major risk factor for non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases (which were the main causes of death in 2012); Type 2 diabetes; musculoskeletal disorders, and some cancers. Childhood obesity is also reaching alarming proportions around the world. Companies can help to combat overweight and obese conditions by encouraging and enabling people to make healthier dietary choices in four main ways:

  • changing the content or impact of food by reformulating content or decreasing portion sizes;
  • labelling products clearly and responsibly;
  • ensuring the availability and affordability of healthy choices for all; and,
  • marketing lower nutritional foods more responsibly, especially to groups such as children.

Reformulation and Nutritional Content
Food companies should be committed to reformulating food and beverage products, where possible, to increase nutrient content and reduce salt, sugar and fat where it is unnecessarily high. Some products which might be regarded as ‘luxury’ or ‘treat’ items, such as confectionary are often high in sugar, fat and salt. Whilst this does not make them inherently unethical, such products should be marketed and priced appropriately to discourage over-consumption. Producers and retailers can also reduce the negative impact of foods high in sugar, salt and fat by reducing portion sizes.

Responsible Labelling
It is important that consumers are able to make informed choices about their diet, with nutritional content such as fat, salt and sugar clearly labelled on products. The major UK food retailers currently use conflicting labelling systems which may increase consumer confusion and dilute awareness. Nutritional content labelling can also be applied to ‘out of home’ dining by adding calorie or nutritional content information to menus in restaurant and fast food outlets.

Availability and Affordability of Healthy Options
Food retailers, such as supermarkets, should endeavour to stock healthy option choices to enable consumers to make informed choices. It is also important that cost does not become a barrier to healthy choices; suppliers and retailers should seek to price products fairly and appropriately so as not to encourage ‘nutrition discrimination’. The same principles apply to ‘out of home’ dining. To ensure consumers are given the opportunity to make healthy choices, the range of items available should contain healthier options which are fairly priced. Where restaurants and fast food outlets offer ‘meal deals’ these should include healthy options or allow for the possibility of substituting items such as rice or salad in place of fries.

Responsible Marketing and Promotion
In addition to clearly labelling products with their nutritional content, retailers should also ensure that their marketing practices are responsible with regards to nutrition and health. Producers and retailers have a particular responsibility to ensure the way they market products does not encourage an over consumption of those products that are higher in sugar, salt and fat, but rather encourages a healthy, balanced diet. Retailers have particular responsibility as it relates to marketing to children. Examples of marketing campaigns which might promote the purchase of unhealthy foods are those which offer significant discounts for multiple purchases of unhealthy products or offer prizes or discounts for collecting tokens on packaging. Irresponsible product placement can lead to the impulse purchasing of unhealthy products such as positioning confectionary at supermarket checkouts.

Product Content Transparency and Traceability
Producers and retailers have a responsibility to ensure that the food they sell is clearly labelled with the contents, and that consumers are not misled. Where foods contain GM ingredients this should be made clear to consumers under EU regulations. The use of genetically modified crops remains controversial for a number of reasons including the potential risks to human health and the environment, and unease about the ‘unnaturalness’ of the technology.

Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS)
The marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS), particularly in developing countries, has been an ethical concern since the 1970s. Dubious methods of marketing these products has in the past contributed to infant mortality where women have been unable to afford formula milk or where water impurities have led to illness. In 1981 the World Health Organisation published its International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes to provide guidelines to companies marketing BMS. The main principles of the Code are that BMS products should not be advertised nor should they be promoted through healthcare facilities or the giving away of free samples to mothers or healthcare professionals. All information on BMS products should be purely scientific and factual and give clear information on the benefits of breast feeding and the hazards of artificial feeding. The Code also states that all products should be labelled in the indigenous language and should not depict pictures of babies.

Alcohol
The misuse of alcohol has significant impacts on health and society. Excessive, rapid and chronic drinking pose serious health risks, with alcohol rated as the third largest lifestyle risk factor for disease and death in the UK after smoking and obesity. Societal problems linked to excessive alcohol consumption include increased crime and violence, family breakdown, and financial loss to individuals, employers and public services, such as the NHS. Companies have a responsibility to market and price products appropriately so as to guard against over-consumption and ensure that measures are in place to comply with age restrictions. Because of the seriousness of problems linked to the misuse of alcohol, the CFB does not invest in companies with significant exposure to alcoholic beverage manufacturing or retailing (pubs and ‘wet’ led drinking hospitality groups). The CFB published a Position Paper and Policy Statement on ‘Alcohol Related Companies’ in November 2012, focused on business behaviour and responsible consumption.

Summary

This Policy Statement recognizes that since the CFB first adopted a policy on the Food and Beverage Industry in 2005, much has changed, principally:

  • Trends in consumption away from home-cooking and locally bought fresh foods towards dining out and buying of convenience foods at supermarkets;
  • The significant increase in the availability of fast and nutritionally poor foods both in terms of access and cost;
  • The rise in marketing, particularly to children and young people, through the internet and social media;
  • The cost to society in terms of treating non-communicable diseases, loss of employment due to ill health, and general wellbeing has continued to grow;
  • The impact of an obesogenic environment on children is of particular, and growing, concern;
  • The failure of producers and retailers adequately to accept responsibility for marketing food and
    beverages responsibly, protecting and encouraging food security, particularly in developing countries, and reformulating products with fortified nutrients to tackle under-nourishment.

Policy: Health, Nutrition and Wellbeing

Given the increasing concern about the impact of poor nutrition to individuals and to society:

  • There is a clear need for the CFB to increase the level of proactive engagement with companies that have a material exposure to health, nutrition and wellbeing issues;
  • With increased exposure, there would need to be escalated engagement around food and beverage industry corporate practices, marketing and promotion;
  • Should a company have significant and material exposure to these issues but refuse to engage, then there may be a question of whether it is suitable for investment.

The CFB’s strategy for influencing change relies primarily on dialogue and constructive engagement with companies. Engagement is pursued until it becomes clear that a company is not open to dialogue or does not respond positively to the concerns that are raised. If engagement fails, then disinvestment is an option the CFB will consider.

The areas in which the CFB will seek to engage with companies within the food and beverage industry are various but may include:

  • General company approaches towards the manufacture or retail of products so as to support informed choice in terms of health, nutrition and wellbeing;
  • General company approaches towards the reformulation of products so as to support informed choice in terms of health, nutrition and wellbeing;
  • Company initiatives (including marketing and labelling) targeted towards reducing the potential for clinical diet related non-communicable diseases or undernutrition;
  • Companies whose main business is the production or sale of food and beverages which are high in sugar, salt or fat, such as sugar-sweetened drinks, fast food or confectionary products, should be subject to enhanced scrutiny compared with those involved with more nutritionally balanced food and beverages;
  • Products with higher sugar, fat, or salt content which are not marketed as ‘treat’ products or priced appropriately, are a particular cause for concern;
  • Companies which offer a range of products, including healthy choices, and which seek to address undernutrition through fortification and distribution to undernourished populations will be looked on more favourably;
  • The CFB will take particular care to monitor the approach companies take to the production, sale or marketing of products high in sugar, fat or salt to children.

Policy: Breast Milk Substitutes

The marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS), particularly in developing countries, has been an ethical concern since the 1970s with dubious marketing practices being widely viewed as having an impact on, or contributing to, infant mortality where water impurities may have led to illness and early death.

Whilst the World Health Organisation International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (the Code) is designed to be implemented globally, in certain circumstances, the use of breast milk substitutes may be deemed necessary, desirable or a matter of choice, the key principle being that the Code is nevertheless applied and upheld in the host country. BMS are therefore viewed as legitimate products, and their sale is not viewed as inherently unethical.

CFB will monitor and engage particularly closely with manufacturers of BMS. Specifically, should a company have significant and material exposure to the manufacture of BMS products but refuse to engage, there may be a question of whether investment is appropriate.

The CFB fully subscribes to the principles contained within the Code, and wherever possible priority should be given to natural feeding.

The CFB will seek to ensure, as part of its engagement, that companies with manufacturing exposure to BMS products fully endorse the Code, and in particular have policies and approaches that ensure its key points are enforced and adhered to i.e.

  • No advertising of breast milk substitutes to pregnant mothers is allowed;
  • No direct approach to pregnant mothers by manufacturers with product samples;
  • No free gifts distributed to pregnant mothers and no ‘in-shop’ promotion of such goods;
  • No direct approach to health workers with product samples of such goods;
  • Strict accountability regarding labelling including indigenous languages.

Overall the CFB has articulated its approach and position on BMS manufacturers thus:

  • There are occasions when the appropriate response to an ethical issue is to disinvest from, or avoid investment in, the company involved. There are other occasions when the appropriate response to an ethical issue is to engage with the company in expectation that concerns will be heard and appropriate changes will be instigated.
  • There may be instances however, where a company’s application of the Code is so poor, the only ethical response is to exclude or divest.
  • There are some products whose manufacture and sale may be considered incompatible with Methodist aims and values; breast milk substitutes do not fall into this category.
  • As a minimum, companies should have publicly endorsed support and adherence to the Code, and have been selected for inclusion into the FTSE4Good Indices which sets a standard of ongoing monitored compliance with the Code for this group of manufacturers.

This Policy, approved in March 2017, supersedes earlier CFB policies on the food and beverage industry where it related to health and nutrition (2005) and on Nestlé (2005).