Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Progress on Ethical Investments at Kent County County

The Superannuation Fund Committee of Kent County Council met last week with part of the agenda to update their statement of investment principles. Greens across the country have been lobbying for ethical investments by councils with varying degrees of success. In Kent we have exposed KCCs investments in arms, tobacco, oil and companies supporting Mugabe. Kent CC's branch of Unison passed a resolution calling for adoption of the UN Principles of Responsible Investment by the committee and an end to the arms investments.

A report went to the committee which showed that there was pressure from a variety of sources:

It seems to be an appropriate time for us to update our position on ESG issues in light of a number of general factors including:
(1) The Merseyside Pension Fund has decided to ballot scheme members on whether to invest in armaments companies.
(2) For the last few years we have provided information to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) which has been published as part of a national survey.
(3) There has been recent local press coverage of “investments in Zimbabwe”, this actually refers to stocks we hold in companies which as part of their business activities undertake business in Zimbabwe such as Toyota. [n.b this was Kent Green Party highlighting this]
(4) CAFOD an agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales contacted us in May in connection with concerns about the mining sector.
(5) The Kent Green Party have been in touch with the Kent Public Health Director on investment in tobacco companies.

And this was the Unison motion:

Ethical Investment - The Arms Trade

This Branch notes the resolution passed at UNISON’s national delegate conference in 2007 calling for an end to investment by local authority pension funds in the arms trade.

This Branch is aware that Kent County Council’s Superannuation Fund Committee currently has a very weak policy regarding ethical investment, and particularly does not prohibit its Fund Managers from investment in companies that are known to produce and export weapons and / or instruments of torture.

The Branch notes that KCC’s Superannuation Fund, along with those of scores of other local authorities, invests in BAE Systems, the UK’s largest arms company, which supplies weaponry to countries including Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

Investment by the Superannuation Fund in the arms trade means that our members’ money is used to fund unscrupulous international arms dealers to the ultimate benefit of oppressive regimes.

Accordingly, this Branch will campaign at every opportunity for the Superannuation Fund Committee to:

Recognise the UN principles of ethical investment.
Monitor and report investments made in its name in manufacturers and traders in weapons and related products.
Withdraw from or prohibit the Fund’s investment in any organisation which (upon investigation) is identified as carrying out such sales and production.

This Branch will also develop a detailed policy on socially responsible and ethical investment, and seek to apply this policy to the Superannuation Fund through its representation on the Fund Committee.

In the face of this they have decided to adopt the UNs principles - which which is definitely progress! I can't see that we will stop campaigning until at least the arms investments are withdrawn, but for now we can say a small victory has been had, thanks to the united position with Unison, CAAT and CAFOD .

3 comments:

Sue Luxton said...

That's great news Stuart, well done! It's also great 'ammunition' for me to use at the next meeting of Lewisham's Pension Fund, of which I'm a trustee.

Symon Hill said...

Well done! Congratulations and best wishes from CAAT to all those in Kent campaigning for clean investment.

Symon Hill
(CAAT Media Co-ordinator)

Catherine said...

Stuart,

Sue Luxton pointed me to your work. I've just joined FairPensions as its new Director and am keen to link up with people who are taking active steps to hold their pension funds accountable for Responsible Investment. I think your focus on getting Kent to sign up to the UNPRI is a great start. In itself the UNPRI is fairly inoccuous (therefore pretty unthreatening and well within the fiduciary constraints on trustees) but if Kent is signed up it will open the door for Kent collaborating with other pension funds across the world on environmental and human rights concerns.