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How much is too much?

How much is too much?

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Last week the Church Investors Group made the news with an open letter written to the 350 biggest companies on the stock market warning them about excessive pay deals. James Corah, who as secretary to the group signed the letter, explains why.

The subject of corporate governance, previously the preserve of special interest groups and specialist investment analysts, is receiving unprecedented levels of societal interest. Concern regarding the divergence of pay awarded to the senior managers of the UK’s largest businesses as opposed to ‘normal’ employees is regularly making the front page headlines and Theresa May’s government is actively pursuing a programme of reform to try to bring company structures back in line with wider expectations.

This concern is nothing new for many church and charity investors who have quietly been pushing for change. Members of the Church Investors Group (the membership organization for 59 institutional church investors with investment assets of over £17bn) have long voted against a large number of executive remuneration reports and pay policies. In 2016, participants in the CIG’s collective voting programme refused to support 64% of the Remuneration Reports and 55% of the Remuneration Policies that had been proposed by FTSE350 constituent companies. They also write to companies every year asking for more information about how internal pay differentials are monitored and considered when setting executive pay plans.

Whilst church investors have been in the vanguard of this discussion, their concerns are widely shared by other investors from the charitable sector. Reflecting the values of their clients, CCLA, the specialist asset manager for charities, churches, and local authorities, has supplemented its voting on executive pay with engagement promoting the Living Wage. Following productive discussions, 11 FTSE100 constituent companies took steps to increase the pay awarded to employees and contractors who work on their sites. At one company alone this led to a pay increase for 600 of the lowest paid people working in their buildings.

With the government’s increased focus on corporate governance many more investors are now paying an interest in reforming executive pay. This has been a long time coming. There has long been evidence that poorly aligned executive pay could incentivise short–term decision making and, as many charities are arguing, increased levels of inequality can come with the risk of increased political instability. This is not in the long–term interest of investors, let alone society, and values–based investors such as those from the Church Investors Group have been showing the way.

With the Annual General Meeting season only beginning and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s consultation on corporate governance reform closing this week, this is the time for church and charity investors to continue to make their voices heard.  

James Corah is Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment at CCLA, the specialist asset manager for charities, churches and local authorities. He is also Secretary to the Church Investors Group.

Image by reynermedia, via Flickr, under Creative Commons 2.0

James Corah

James Corah

James Corah is Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment at CCLA, the specialist asset manager for charities, churches and local authorities. He is also Secretary to the Church Investors Group.

Watch, listen to or read more from James Corah

Posted 13 February 2017

Church, Economy, Ethics


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