UK’s Guardian newspaper group signs up to PRI amid fossil divestment campaign

Guardian Media Group engaging with investment managers to embed principles

Guardian Media Group (GMG), the newspaper and media organization that publishes the UK’s left-leaning newspaper of the same name, has become a signatory to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

It comes as the Guardian, under outgoing Editor Alan Rusbridger, has launched a high-profile campaign calling for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – and the Guardian Media Group itself – to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years.

“We will, of course, suggest that the Guardian Media Group does the same, and keep you informed about its own deliberations and decisions,” Rusbridger wrote when launching the ‘Keep it in the Ground’ initiative earlier this month.

The group, alongside publishing the Guardian and Observer, also manages investments whose purpose is to provide financial support for the development of its journalism. The group’s sole shareholder is the Scott Trust, which was set up in 1936 to safeguard the Guardian’s journalistic freedom.

According to its 2014 annual report, GMG had £842.7m (€1.1bn) in cash and investment fund – boosted by the£549.2m sale of its 50.1% stake in auto sales website Autotrader (Trader Media Group). It said at the time the deal would “sustain our finances for generations to come”. The externally managed investment fund is weighted away from UK and media stocks to diversify risk. Rusbridger sits on the board of both the GMG and the Scott Trust.

A Guardian Media Group spokesperson told RI that the decision to sign up to the PRI “demonstrates the group’s determination to follow the highest standards of ethical investment and to act in a way that is consistent with the values of the Scott Trust, GMG’s sole shareholder”.

Asked about the divestment challenge Rusbridger laid down to the group, the spokesperson added that the organization is currently “actively engaging” with its investment managers to embed the PRI principles “and to identify additional investment opportunities which will deepen the group’s commitment to ethical investment whilst generating strong risk-adjusted returns in the portfolio”. More details would be revealed shortly.

Other new PRI signatories include Artemis Investment Management, Connor, Clark & Lunn Investment Management Ltd., and the Lancashire County Pension Fund.