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Uniting Church fund vetoes investment in Coca-Cola


The Victoria/Tasmania Uniting Church Synod’s inverstment fund has taken on the might of one of the world’s most iconic soft drink companies – Coca-Cola – banning investments in the fizzy drink maker on ethical criteria.

Coca-Cola, which in Australia trades under the name of Coca-Cola Amatil Limited, has been barred as an investment prospect by the Uniting Church in Australia’s UCA Funds Management investment company because the soft drink giant is moving into the trading of hard liquor in a big way.

According to UCA Funds Management’s April newsletter, its most recent, Coca-Cola Amatil’s recent annual reports and activities show that the firm is no longer just a soda pop company, but is solidly into the production, marketing and distribution of alcoholic products. These include such famous names as Jim Beam, Cointreau, Remy Martin brandy and The Famous Grouse Scotch whisky.

This is primarily through Pacific Beverages, a joint venture company established through a strategic alliance with the global giant of alcohol trading, SABMiller, which was formed when SAB, which was once South African Breweries, acquired the Miller Brewing Company of the United States.

UCA Funds Management is the investment arm of the Uniting Church’s Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and has about 650 million Australian dollars (US$620 million) under management.  The church funds’ balance sheet, however is "small beer’" (or tiny) compared to Coca-Cola Amitil’s 4.5 billion Australian dollars in annual revenue in 2007.

But not deterred by the beverage maker’s market power, the church’s portfolio managers have recommended that, "Coca-Cola Amatil Limited be placed on the excluded list because the company regards alcohol production as a ‘key priority’ and a ‘key business driver’ and intends to expand this business."

Describing itself as an ethical investor, UCA Funds Management screens the nation’s top 300 companies on ethical grounds.

Negative screens are applied to companies that invest in armaments, uranium, gambling, alcohol and tobacco production, and pornography. The positive screen covers businesses that offer goods and services that are seen to enhance the health and welfare of individuals, communities and the environment.

Investors in UCA Funds Management tend to be church members, congregations and community associations who want a good return for their ethical investment, and who are content to see the profits returned to the church for benevolent use.