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’ and owned by Aviva), 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…
The original single fund concept grew into a range of funds, with different investment strategies but identical ethics assets now exceed £3 billion pounds.
The Stewardship range was until recently supported by over a dozen specialist SRI analysts at F&C who were guided by an external Committee of Reference. This changed at the start of 2015 with the separation of the OEIC funds from the Life and Pension funds.
Since January 2015 the Stewardship funds have been split. The name ‘Stewardship’ remains owned by Friends Life, who have retained ownership of the Life and Pension Stewardship ranges. Management of the Friends Stewardship funds is outsourced to Schroders. The Stewardship OEIC (formerly Unit Trust) funds, which have been rebranded ‘Responsible’, are now fully owned and managed by BMO (was F&C) – which was merged with the asset management arm of Friends Provident a number of years ago. This means that both can (and do) lay claim to the heritage of this well-known brand.
As of 2015, both Friends and F&C retain strong external Committees and have expressed their on-going commitment to this area.
Although many of the ethical policies have become more nuanced and sophisticated over time these funds continue to consider many or the original ethical issues – although in both cases there are more larger companies within the funds than was the case in the early days for a range of reasons.