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Exclusive on royal charity examines climate-conscious investing

Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, pose for photographers at the Earthshot awards ceremony at Alexandra Palace, London, Oct. 17, 2021. The Royal Foundation’s Earthshot Prize recognizes a “global search for solutions to save our planet,” awarding grants each year to projects confronting environmental challenges. AP reporting finds that the Royal Foundation keeps its investments in a bank that is a major backer of fossil fuels, and that more than half its investments are in a “green” fund linked to deforestation in the palm oil industry. It’s not clear what role, if any, Prince William had in investment decisions; he did not respond to AP requests for comment. (AP Photo / Scott Garfitt)

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Coverage of Britain’s royal family is one of the most competitive beats in the world, with reporters from myriad local and international news agencies angling for scoops.

Against that backdrop, the London-based climate accountability reporter Ed Davey delivered an exclusive on the Royal Foundation, revealing that the conservation charity founded by Prince William, an outspoken environmental advocate, keeps its investments in a bank that is a major backer of fossil fuels. The foundation also places more than half its investments in a “green” fund that owns shares in multinational food companies that buy palm oil from companies linked to deforestation.

Davey’s story began with a tip about the Royal Foundation’s investments. That started him reviewing the charity’s recent public filings,finding that the foundation kept more than 1.1 million pounds ($1.3 million) with JPMorgan,one of the world’s largest investors in fossil fuel,and 1.7 million pounds ($2 million) in a fund run by Cazenove Capital Management,with securities in the palm oil trade.

He spent the next few months poring over the accounts, using specialist financial databases and understanding the charity’s complex structure. He also went to great lengths to ensure that any critique of was foundation was fair and accurate.

Davey interviewed several experts in the field of environmental,social and corporate governance investing,and looked closer at the Cazenove investments and their connection to deforestation in Southeast Asia. He checked deforestation case studies and mapped corporate relationships to ensure that links to the foundation’s investments were bulletproof.

Working with climate team editors Ingrid Lobet and Peter Prengaman,as well as editors at AP’s Top Stories Hub,he also sought responses from the foundation,the investment houses and food giants Nestlé and Reckitt Benckiser. The Royal Foundation said by email that it had followed Church of England guidelines on ethical investment since 2015,and goes beyond them. “We take our investment policies extremely seriously and review them regularly,” the statement said.

Finally,noticing that the foundation was still describing its relationship with the two investment firms in the present tense,Davey got the charity to confirm that they were still investing with JPMorgan and Cazenove.

His piece,which along the way shines light on the complexities of environmentally conscious investing,was a clean scoop,picked up by Bloomberg,the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour to name just a few. In the U.K.,both the Guardian and Daily Express — newspapers poles apart politically — did their own versions of the story, citing the AP throughout.

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