FAO Newsdesks - Tuesday 6th April 2004
CAAT campaign launch exposes arms trade shareholders and unethical 'ethical investment policies'
Tomorrow, Wednesday 7th April, CAAT launches its 2004 Clean Investment Campaign detailing the shares held by organisations such as local authorities and charities in the UK's biggest arms companies.
It catalogues a surprising and disappointing array of socially-minded organisations that are willing to use their money to support the arms trade: from NHS trusts, to churches, to local authorities, to universities, to trade unions, to charities.
Ian Prichard of CAAT said, "It is staggering that organisations committed to public welfare and health continue to hold shares in arms companies that sell weapons across the world. Do donors to Cancer Research UK or the Royal National Lifeboat Institution expect their money to be invested in this way, or nurses and lecturers expect their pension fund to hold hundreds of thousands of shares in arms exporting companies?"
The Clean Investment Campaign depends on CAAT supporters around the country challenging those organisations they are involved with and the local authority to which they pay their Council Tax. They encourage investors in arms exporting companies to examine their shareholdings and disinvest for ethical reasons.
Unethical 'ethical investment policies'
The campaign also highlights a disturbing trend: many investors are presenting themselves as having an ethical investment policy whilst still holding large numbers of shares in major arms exporters.
"This is clearly inconsistent and arises when investors adopt a policy of 'engagement' with the companies in which they hold shares," explained Liz Morton of CAAT. "'Engagement' is where investors talk to companies, identify problem areas, try to persuade the companies to commit themselves to change and then monitor progress. The process has been successful in improving, for example, environmental practices, but engagement alone is hopeless where a company's product is the fundamental problem. And producing and selling arms is a fundamental problem. The arms trade is not a normal, legitimate business and should not be treated as if it is. We hope that investors will soon come to realise the inadequacy of a policy that can result in a supposedly ethical fund holding shares in BAE Systems."
A large number of local authorities hold arms company shares whilst claiming to have ethical investment policies. These include: Essex County Council (CC), East and West Sussex CCs, Durham CC, the London Boroughs of Bexley, Camden, Haringey, Tower Hamlets, Havering and Sutton, North Yorkshire CC and the Strathclyde pension fund. Some of these hold millions of arms company shares.
For further information please contact:
Ian Prichard, 020 7281 0297 or research(at)caat·org·uk
CAAT's report highlights investments in the seven largest arms company plcs in the UK: Alvis, BAE Systems, Cobham, GKN, Rolls Royce, Smiths Group and VT Group.
The full shareholding lists will be published on the CAAT website (www.caat.org.uk) on 7th April.