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Archive for July, 2012

Pension investment in tobacco ‘reviewed’ at Suffolk County Council – News – Eastern Daily Press

Pension investment in tobacco ‘reviewed’ at Suffolk County Council – News – Eastern Daily Press.

Suffolk is reviewing its pension fund investments in tobacco companies.  the committee chairman doesn’t seem too keen though on making any changes.  He asks:

” If you want to stop investing in tobacco where do you stop? Do you stop investing in armaments companies? In food companies? In oil companies? Then you find your options are limited and you may be unable to achieve the kind of returns you need.”

The answer to this oft posed question is actually very straightforward, and New Zealand showed the way.  The UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has very clear guidance that all branches of government should not invest in tobacco companies.  One of the key reasons given by the New Zealand Fund was that to continue investing in tobacco companies would not be compatible with the country’s Treaty obligations.   For the same reason they also do not invest in cluster bomb companies, as those munitions are also banned by international treaty.

So, there is not a long and slippery slope from tobacco to alcohol, food, and general armaments.  Pension fund committees should simply instruct their fund managers not to invest in companies that are incompatible with UK international treaty obligations.

It is also worth repeating that tobacco is the only consumer product that when used as intended by the manufacturer kills half its long term users.  It is a unique product category, killing 1116 Suffolk residents each year.

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Bexley Council’s pension fund invests £15m in tobacco firms From News Shopper

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BAT and African smuggling

Premium Times.

This is a Nigerian investigative journalism piece that provides evidence of alleged British American Tobacco involvement in smuggling of tobacco in various African countries.

This is not the first time a tobacco company has been so accused.  The current UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) famously accused an  Imperial Tobacco executive of being a liar or a crook.  Both Gallaher, now part of Japan Tobacco International, and Imperial were found to be exporting massive quantities of UK brands to countries with no significant market for those brands, and which were subsequently shipped back to the UK on the black market.

Many pension funds seem to be taken in by the corporate social responsibility claims of these companies, and even go so far as to support constructive engagement with them on the basis that it is how responsible investors should behave.  Yet the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control makes it clear, in guidelines, that no government body, which includes public pension funds, should engage in such activities.  It does so on the basis that corporate social responsibility and tobacco manufacturing are mutually exclusive concepts.  You cannot kill half your customers in a responsible manner!

 

 

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