For nearly 30 years ECCR has struggled financially to do the huge range of things it feels it could do. We exist to fight inequality and injustice and to do it by raising awareness of the issues and holding companies to account. We want to ensure that the impact companies have on society is beneficial. In the process we encourage members to select investments that will have a positive impact on society – a more challenging criteria than simply avoiding drugs, drink and tobacco (plus fossil fuels nowadays) the traditional “sin” businesses.
Thirty years ago it was a prophetic voice. Few wanted to hear about creating equality in the workplace, paying living wages, having women in senior roles. Thinking about the impact of mining & oil companies on the communities where their operations are based, or the rights of indigenous people to say “no”, or what impact a company was having on its wider stakeholder base was very rare. Today there are a number of secular organisations doing these jobs and a church-based group can rightly question whether there is a unique role for it.
The ECCR Board has gone through yet another budget crisis and has wondered whether it should pack up and leave others to do the work. We have thought about what we should do, and maybe could do, and we are discussing with our partners and funders what the options are. From every direction there has been a very emphatic endorsement for ECCR continuing. We are the only organisation working in every denomination to encourage people to take a look at their faith and their money and to examine what their faith says they should be doing with their money. We continue to speak on behalf of a faith-based constituency about aspects of economic justice that hardly anyone else in the churches is dealing with – banking regulation, corporate responsibility in companies, faith-based investment guidelines and opportunities, the rights of indigenous people to decide if mining takes place in their areas and to receive fair compensation for the damage it causes, the ethics of extracting fossil fuels and water and the potential harmful impact on succeeding generations, the rights of future generations that flow from considering the role our Christian beliefs ask us to take in relation to our finances.
Given the scale of the potential task, is it right to continue with just three or four part-time staff? Hard working though they are, isn’t that just tokenism? This is very challenging to the churches. Most are struggling with tight budgets, pension-fund deficits, crumbling buildings and aging or declining memberships. So often they say to us “We think ECCR is doing a great job, and we need agencies like you” but “we don’t have the money to support you”. And yet..? And yet money is found for all sorts of purposes if people try hard enough. Some churches with active growing memberships are awash with money and staff. More and more fund managers are espousing the cause of sustainable investment and want to be associated with an organisation like ECCR trying to work in churches. There are trusts and private philanthropies that do want to make a difference to the world we are living in and can see the benefits of supporting ECCR. How do we create and sell a vision to those who could pay for it? How do we inspire those who can change the world – even just a little bit!?
ECCR has prepared a vision document looking at where we want to be. We envisage a significant increase in the number of people working with churches in our Ethical Money Churches programme. We have a suggested structure of regional officers recruiting and working with volunteers to help churches take up the EMC programme, work with home groups to think about what else they should do to engage with companies and/or reinvest their money. We want more staff centrally to help us engage with companies and run campaigns. We also need core staff to help build the membership and funding bases so we can finance the work we believe needs to be done on a sustainable basis.
The task we have set ourselves is to expand our budget some ten-fold over the next four years. Given that this is a very unglamorous area and fundraising is very difficult, none of us should under-estimate what a tall order that is. However, if the job needs to be done, and there seems to be a very broad consensus that it does, then we must rise to the challenge. Footling around pretending to do a job was never rising to God’s challenge. We have our challenge – hard work and imagination is needed and we’re going for gold! The challenge to all those with a heart for ECCR’s work, is how can you help make the vision a reality?