Dutch pension assets still invested in weapons

IPE.com 5 June 2008

NETHERLANDS - A considerable number of Dutch pension funds are still investing in weapons, such as landmines, cluster ammunition and nuclear weapons, according to a pressure group. “Some schemes seem to be deaf to the wish of society for a change of policy,” said the Dutch Campaign against Arms Trade (CtW) in an interim report about the progress of pension fund divestment from armaments.


Its survey comes just over a year after television program Zembla revealed Dutch pension funds had invested nearly ¤300m in US companies which also manufacture landmines and cluster bombs. The program triggered a broad debate among pension schemes and their participants.

According to CtW, many pension funds have formulated an exclusion policy, albeit often limited to some types of arms, mainly anti-personnel mines and cluster ammunition. “Although investments in some of the most controversial companies, such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, have fallen considerably, there are still many investments left in the weapons industry, such as in companies involved in nuclear arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium,” it said. “In addition, companies which supply countries involved in armed conflicts or are violating human rights, have hardly been excluded.”

According to CtW, the ¤88bn healthcare scheme Zorg & Welzijn, formerly known as PGGM, has made most progress in developing a responsible investment policy on arms trade. The schemes of union FNV and Rabobank have also distinguished themselves in a positive way, it added.

In its report, the pressure group mentions the ¤19bn scheme of oil giant Shell and the ¤4.9bn pension fund of chemicals company Akzo Nobel as examples of schemes which have yet to develop an exclusion policy. However, Stichting Shell Pensioenfonds (SSPF) very recently announced on its website an extension of its responsible investment policy with social and environmental aspects. It has contracted Hermes Equity Ownership Services, which has entered a dialogue with companies seen as involved in the manufacture of landmines. A survey is also carried out to make clear which companies are involved in the production of cluster bombs, the Shell scheme said.

“Although this is a step in the right direction, SSPF hasn’t clearly distanced itself from the controversial weapons yet,” commented Frank Slijper, spokesman of CtW, to IPE. The Akzo Nobel pension fund is about to implement an exclusion policy aimed at banning all investments in producers of landmines, cluster bombs, biological, chemical and nuclear weapons from its entire portfolio, indicated Bob Puyn, CIO of asset manager Syntrus Achmea – the firm managing its assets.

“At the moment, we are consulting our external managers on an implementation date,” he added.

Albert Akkerman, chief executive of the ¤12.1bn SPF railways scheme, disagreed with CtW’s conclusion arguing his organisation is very slow in implementing its exclusion policy. “We not only disinvest in controversial companies, but also cancel related loans and lease contracts for SPF-owned property. This takes extra time,” he pointed out. “On the other hand, we also invest in positive projects, such as a factory in Mali for the production of biodiesel from the non-food plant jatropha.”

ABP, the ¤216bn civil service scheme, acknowledges it still invests in nuclear arms and weapons that include depleted uranium. “We have decided to base our current policy on Dutch and international law to have a clear reference point,” said ABP’s spokesman Thijs Steger. He stressed CtW’s report noted ABP is the only scheme offering full transparency on policy, exclusions, investments in general and voting behaviour at shareholders’ meetings.

CtW advocates an investment policy which excludes manufacturers of landmines, cluster ammunition, nuclear arms and weapons including depleted uranium, as well as companies with a turnover from military production of over 5%.