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Church News

C of E 'deeply concerned' over water pollution as Joe Lycett calls out £30m investment

by Heather Preston

The Church of England Pensions Board has said it is "deeply concerned" at the operation of water companies, after comedian Joe Lycett highlighted the state of the UK sewage network and the Church’s £30m investment in the industry.

In a new Channel4 documentary “Joe Lycett vs Sewage”, Lycett revealed the quantities of untreated sewage entering UK waterways every day and called on the industry to stop polluting rivers.

Water companies have faced criticism for paying dividends to shareholders despite continued pollution and water spills.

The Church of England holds £325,000 in water company shares, and some £30 million in bonds across the sector.

Addressing the Church on its investments, Lycett asked if it would divest from UK water companies in a satirical letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Joe Lycett / Instagram
Joe Lycett / Instagram

Last year the Church of England divested from oil and gas companies for failing to meet decarbonisation targets in line with the Paris Agreement. Upon discovering that both he and the Church had investments in water company Severn Trent, Lycett asked if it would consider making a “similar gesture” in the water sector.

The Pensions Board said that it remained “deeply concerned” by company operations, the effectiveness of the sector’s regulation and investor engagement “to help improve it,” but declined to divest from the industry, as “progress and improvements” were possible.

Responding to Lycett, the board said it “does not rule out disinvesting from companies or refusing to fund future debt if we believe the management are not suitably responsive to our engagement.”

This week Severn Trent was fined more than £2million for "recklessly" allowing large amounts of raw sewage to enter the River Trent.

Over 260 million litres of sewage, the equivalent of 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools were discharged from its Strongford Treatment Works between November 2019 and February 2020.

Lycett said he is selling his four shares in the water company.


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