What Are Ethics and How Far Should They Be Taken within Business

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Byline: JOHN DUCKERS

The Co-operative Insurance Society yesterday became the first insurer to launch an ethical engagement policy based on the views of its members.

The policy is the result of an extensive consultation with its five million policyholders and will govern the way the firm interacts with the companies it invests in.

CIS, which has more than pounds 20 billion of funds under management, said it would lobby businesses at every opportunity to improve their ethical and environmental performances.

The new policy, which is backed by 98 per cent of customers, will guide the group on such issues as human rights, the arms trade, environmental impact, labour standards, animal welfare and corporate governance.

The group said it would use its power as a major shareholder to make its views known at annual general meetings and to put pressure on companies.

Its stance is similar to one already adopted by the Co-operative Bank, which refuses to do business with companies it deems to be unethical David Anderson, chief executive of CIS, said: 'For the first time and in the best traditions of a co-operative, individual policyholders have had their say, so there is now a direct link between an individual customer and the engagement policy of a major institutional investor.' Last month CIS opposed the re-election of Exxon Mobil's chief executive Lee Raymond on ethical grounds.

The group, which holds Exxon shares worth $25 million, did not support his re-election because of the company's attempts to talk down the links between man-made carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, and the need for drastic action to be taken. …