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Charity Commission guidance update

Published : 12/09/23 | Categories: Information & support | News |

The Charity Commission has published updated guidance on charities and investments.

UPDATED GUIDANCE

The guidance (known as CC14) has been redesigned and modernised to offer greater clarity and to give trustees confidence to make investment decisions that are right for their charity.

The language used in the guidance is clearer and the structure has been updated so that it’s shorter and easier to use, and trustees can find the information they need more quickly.

The guidance does not use the terms ‘ethical’ or ‘responsible’ investments, which were considered vague and confusing by some charities. Instead, it emphasises that trustees must act in the best interests of their charity and its beneficiaries, and consider all relevant factors, including financial and non-financial ones, when making investment decisions.

It also does not use the terms ‘mixed-motive investment’ and ‘programme-related investment’, which were forms of social investment that involved both financial and social returns. Instead, it uses the term ‘social investment’  which refers to investments that further a charity’s purposes or achieve a positive social impact, even if they may not generate a financial return or may involve taking on more risk.

THE AIM OF THE GUIDANCE

‘As discussion continues within the sector about charities’ ability to account for factors such as the environmental impact of investments, the guidance makes clearer that trustees have discretion to choose what is best in their circumstances and have a range of investment options open to them – provided they ultimately further the charity’s purposes.’

The refreshed guidance follows a Commission ‘call for information’ and consultation on financial investment and reflects a significant High Court judgment on charity trustees’ investment duties (the ‘Butler-Sloss’ case).

Trustees can now have confidence in the investment decisions they make when following the guidance, knowing it is up to date and properly reflects the relevant law.

The guidance:

  • includes examples of various issues which may be relevant for trustees to consider when making investment decisions, such as the potential for an investment to conflict with the purposes of the charity, or the reputational impact of an investment decision.
  • lists steps trustees ‘must’ take to be compliant with the law and those trustees ‘should’ do which are strongly recommended as best practice but not legally required.
  • explains that acting in the best interests of a charity is about ensuring that above all else any decision furthers its purposes. It also warns trustees to not allow personal motives, opinions, or interests to affect the decisions they make.
  • incorporates previously separate guidance on social investment and no longer uses terminology that could get in the way of trustees’ understanding, such as ‘ethical investment’, ‘mixed motive investment’ and ‘programme related investment’.

FEATURED EXAMPLES

The examples featured in the guidance are designed to help trustees identify the factors that are relevant to their own charity’s situation and then use this to determine how to approach their investment decisions. This should make it easier for trustees to apply the guidance correctly and feel able to justify that the decisions they take are in their charity’s best interests.

We recommend that trustee pay attention to this guidance when making decisions about investments.

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