Friday, June 7, 2024

The Sad Tale of Baillie Gifford


I guess not many people had heard of the investment management firm Baillie Gifford & Co until very recently.

"Inside the collapse of Baillie Gifford’s literary sponsorships"  City FM news

Here’s some back ground. It was founded in Edinburgh in 1908 and still has it’s headquarters there. It employs just shy of 2000 people and is a partnership rather than a Ltd Company with ‘doings’  ( assets under management?) of  upwards of  £223 billion.

They sponsor the biggest Non Fiction prize in Britain

Here’s what they say on their website about their support of literary festivals over the years.

“Literary festivals

We’re deeply curious about the world. To find companies with the greatest chance of growth over the next five years and beyond, we read widely and are constantly hunting for new ideas. That often leads to conversations with authors that help shape our theories about how the world might change. To share this passion with you, we sponsor many of the UK’s leading book festivals. “

 And then…..

Well I’m not really sure what happened but a climate change group, Free Fossil Books, protested about the situation claiming that Baillie Gifford were involved in fossil fuels and were involved in the current situation in Israel/Palestine and that this festival should not be taking sponsorship from them. 

I think then, some of the big names pulled out the festival because of these links

And then... the dominoes started to fall, one after another. With the next two big festivals receiving sponsorship with Baillie Gifford announced that a mutual decision had been taken between the two parties and that a separation was now the best thing but thank you on both sides for a long and happy mutually beneficial relationship.

Then something else happened. Maybe the company just got fed up of being accused of things with no sense of perspective being put on the accusations, or they saw other areas that they could continue to support.....  Maybe the literary gig was just too problematic now.

They pulled funding/sponsorship from all book festivals.

Can’t say that I blame them really.

The general consensus from the festivals is that they were grateful for the support but they were determined to continue- they will need to regroup and look for other sponsors.

Ms Annie Ashworth, the Stratford festival’s director was quoted as saying the impact will be "increased ticket prices" and more difficulty in delivering "important literacy outreach work." She then went on to say  "We all fear climate change and deplore conflict, but the withdrawal of sponsorship from book festivals is not the solution," she said. Baillie Gifford had been sponsoring that festival for ten years.

On the X twitter page, a Fossil Free Books spokesman  said that following their campaign, Baillie Gifford had "announced that it is ending sponsorship of all UK book festivals."

 So that’s a result. Or I think they feel it is a result.

One of the partners at Baillie Gifford, responded with : “Our collaboration with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, spanning decades, was rooted in our shared interest in making Edinburgh a thriving and culturally vibrant place to live and work. The assertion that we have significant amounts of money in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is offensively misleading. Baillie Gifford is a large investor in several multinational technology companies, including Amazon, NVIDIA, and Meta," he said. "Demanding divestment from these global companies, used by millions of people around the world, is unreasonable and serves no purpose. Much as it would be unreasonable to demand authors boycott Instagram or stop selling books on Amazon.

“Nor is Baillie Gifford a significant fossil fuel investor. Only 2% of our clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels. We invest far more in companies helping drive the transition to clean energy."

The firm is on records as supporting children’s reading programmes in  schools, giving them free books.  

At the Edinburgh Book Festival,  they often have an event - just a five minute reading - before the actual event kicks off. Usually from an under represented or vulnerable group. A 'headline' author is asked to read a poem or short story written by somebody suffering under a restrictive regime or living in a war zone. When I did it,  the works chosen were from imprisoned writers via Amnesty International.

Who looks where their pensions and savings are invested? 

I have ethical funds but even then how ethical is ethical and....yes, I do  like to see how well I am selling on Amazon.

We all have different priorities and sensitivities in life but I can't help feeling that free speech and the written word might have suffered a bit of an own goal here.

No comments:

Post a Comment