Yesterday the BBC aired a Panorama documentary revealing  that Comic Relief invested £630,000 in shares in BAE Systems, a leading weapons manufacturer, despite the charity’s commitment to help ‘people affected by conflict’. The charity has also given money to help the fight against tuberculosis but had £3million of its money wrapped up in tobacco companies, despite smoking being a major contributory factor in many TB cases. And although it aims to reduce alcohol misuse and its spin-off effects, it also had £300,000 invested in the drinks industry in 2009.

It’s not unusual for a charity to try and generate more funding for it’s activities though investment. In fact, it’s common practice. The potential for a return on investment shouldn’t be the sole factor determining where money is invested, especially when donors (quite rightly) assume a level of ethical integrity on the part of the trustees. It’s important also to remember that there is a distinction between those working for charities and those who run them. We can’t help but feel that Comic Relief are being made an example of but there are others also operating in the same way. What this highlights is the need for an Ethical Investment Policy in every charity that fits comfortably with their charitable objectives. The comments below this Guardian article are worth a read, and may signal a change in donors giving directly to local charities rather than to larger funders who distribute money on their behalf.