Archbishop Welby has WhatsApp engagement ‘hotline’ with Church Commissioners

First Estates Commissioner Loretta Minghella in frequent contact with faith leader

It’s emerged that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has a corporate engagement ‘hotline’ with the Church Commissioners via messaging system WhatsApp.

Asked about an engagement with online giant Amazon, First Estates Commissioner Loretta Minghella said: “The archbishop and I are in very, very frequent contact and he WhatsApps me whenever he needs to.”

The First Estates Commissioner post, awarded by the Queen, means Minghella — formerly CEO at Christian Aid — chairs the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee, responsible for the strategic management of the Church Commissioners’ £7.9bn (€8.8bn) investment portfolio.

She was speaking on the BBC’s religious affairs radio programme ‘Sunday’ and was also asked about what the Commissioners would do if oil major Exxon does not comply with their request (as part of the Climate Action 100+ initiative) to disclose greenhouse gas reduction targets.

She said: “You’re speculating now that they won’t do what we want them to do.”

But interviewer Edward Staunton pressed her, saying: “Either they will or they won’t. If they don’t, what will you do? You must have a plan for that.”

Minghella replied: “This is asking them to disclose targets that they can then be held to.

“What we’ll be doing with Exxon, as we’ll be doing with other oil and gas companies we invest in, is taking a view – as time progresses – about whatever they have done by then is enough to bring us to a point of confidence that they will align their business models with the Paris agreement.”Exxon and others that bring their business models into line with Paris “can be confident that we would be prepared to remain in them on ethical grounds”.

“Companies which don’t come into line should be confident that we won’t be prepared to continue to invest in them.”

“And those companies which don’t come into line should be confident that we won’t be prepared to continue to invest in them.”

Under what Minghella called a compromise amendment at last year’s church General Synod, the Commissioners will start divesting in 2020 and be fully divested out of companies that are, in her words “not able and willing and ready” to align with Paris.

“So it does set us a very ambitious agenda of engagement over the coming years.”

She was asked about Welby’s comments in September about Amazon’s use of zero hours contracts and allegations about tax.

Minghella said: “It was a shame that people misunderstood that as some kind of criticism of the Church Commissioners, whereas in fact he is fully at one with us on our programme of engagement and absolutely understands and supports the approach by which we do engage with the companies that we’re invested in.”