The early ethical policies of the Stewardship funds drew substantially on the religious (Methodist and Quaker) and personal values of the Stewardship Committee of Reference members and its first investors. Indeed Friends Provident, who launched the funds (now ‘Friends Life’), was a Quaker run institution until the 1970’s – hence the name ‘Friends’ – from the Quaker name ‘the Society of Friends’.
When ‘Stewardship’ was launched in 1984 it was dubbed ‘the Brazil fund’, not because of concern for diminishing rainforests but because someone had joked that you had to be ‘nuts’ to invest in it…
Today Stewardship boasts assets under management which total several billion pounds. The fund has diversified into a range of funds, with different investment strategies but identical ethics. The Stewardship range is now supported by over a dozen specialist SRI analysts at F&C, expert fund managers and an external Committee of Reference.
The Stewardship brand remains owned by Friends Life, although the specialist governance and sustainable investment analysts are employed by F&C. The external committee ‘the Stewardship Committee of Reference’ , has the role of updating and improving ethical policies and company approval.
Although many of the ethical policies have become more nuanced and sophisticated over time Stewardship continues to be run along broadly similar ethical lines to the early days. Over time however the changes have led to the inclusion of a greater number of larger companies within the funds as interpretation of issues has evolved – both across business and within the Stewardship Committee of Reference.
Stewardship has proven to be a popular model. Since 1984 many other fund managers have launched comparable investment options - creating a healthy and diverse UK ethical fund market.