The Church of England says it has “serious concerns” about SOCO International’s operations around Virunga National Park and the it may dump its £3m (Can$5.69 million) stake.
“Following Board level engagement between the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) and SOCO International Plc (SOCO), the EIAG has raised serious concerns about the Company’s determination to satisfactorily address, in an open and transparent manner, allegations concerning the operations of SOCO in and around the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” wrote the Church of England board to SOCO Internatinal.
SOCO International, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has a market cap of US$1.5 billion, denies adversely affecting the park. Virunga National Park was established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium to protect the mountain gorillas. Virunga was designated a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site in 1979.
The British oil firm’s activities in the park were highlighted in the documentary Virunga. Undercover footage shows alleged SOCO representatives taking bribes to park rangers to access the park.
SOCO has license to operation within the Virunga National Park, but says it is no longer conducting operations within the block.
“Ethical conduct, in public and in private, is important to SOCO and is at the heart of the Company’s values,” writes the company on its website.
“SOCO condemns the use of violence and intimidation, and has implemented and enforces robust policies and procedures to ensure the best working practices.”
Image from Wikipedia.