Today, Soco International’s most influential shareholder, The Church of England, announced it’s decision to divest a £1.6 million stake in the oil and gas company.
This comes as a result of two public statements issued by the Church that appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
The first statement came in February 2015, when in an unprecedented move, the Church of England Investment Advisory Group expressed grave concerns over Soco’s commitment to investigating the mounting allegations of bribery, corruption and human rights abuse, first brought to their attention in our documentary, Virunga.
In June 2015, new evidence of wrongdoing was released by Global Witness that further suggested a lack of oversight by the oil company, both in terms of their operations in Virunga National Park and their attempts to investigate these operations internally.
On the day of Soco’s Annual General Meeting, the Church of England was joined by Aviva in asking that Soco publish the full scope of the internal inquiry - confirming that Soco’s actions since February were far from satisfactory.
This was followed by a strongly worded statement from the Church of England, who asked for “urgent consideration” to be given to the appointment of a new chairman so that “SOCO [can] openly and transparently address the concerns of shareholders.”
One month on and Soco has remained silent. The Church of England has been left with no choice but to make a stand and place Soco on a restricted list.
Emmanuel de Merode, Director of Virunga National Park, told the Guardian today, “We share the deep concern shown by the Church of England that Soco International has failed to adequately investigate these allegations internally. Given the very serious nature of the allegations it is incumbent on all relevant jurisdictions, including the UK, to ensure appropriate action is taken.”