This week, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, Justin Welby (aka the Archbishop of Canterbury) criticized the U.S. retail giant Amazon for getting away “with paying almost nothing in tax.” Which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact, first reported by the Church Times, that the Church of England owns a significant number of Amazon shares.
In fact, Amazon is among the 20 most valuable equity holdings in the Church’s multi-billion investment fund, according to the 2017 annual report from the Church Commissioners.
When confronted with the fact, the Church issued a statement saying, essentially, that being a shareholder in a company and criticizing it are not necessarily at odds.
“As with other issues, we take the view that it is most effective to be in the room with these companies seeking change as a shareholder. We continue to work with other shareholders to tackle this issue via engagement with companies and their managers,” the CofE told the Church Times in a statement.
Should the Church’s efforts result in any changes in how Amazon runs its business, we’ll report it.
“We pay all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate,” Amazon (which briefly became the second trillion-dollar company in the U.S. last week) said in a statement.
This is not the only time the Church’s stance has been at odds with its own practices. According to the BBC, Archbishop Welby criticized zero-hour job contracts, in which the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours or job certainty. But Reverend Ray Anglesea, who worked on such a contract for the Church, unveiled in a letter to the Times that the Church uses similar contracts for numerous employees at its cathedrals.