Highland Council Pension Fund
Committe Chair admits unethical investments
In correspondence with the Highland Charter for Responsible Investment campaign, Councillor Ben Thompson, Chair of the HCPF Investment sub-Committee, has admitted that its fund managers 'invest in the arms industry, tobacco, gambling, cheap fast food, agrochemicals etc – (unfortunately)'. Councillor Thompson, who has previously previously claimed the fund 'takes environmental, social and governance issues seriously’, says the reason is that companies in these sectors pay a high and rising dividend every year, which is necessary to enable the pension fund to beat inflation and maintain its value.
Glasgow Council backs fossil fuel divestment
Highland Charter for Responsible Investment has emailed
Yesterday (Thursday 1st April), Glasgow City Council endorsed a plan to end their £500 million investment in fossil fuels. The motion was approved by a full meeting of Glasgow City Council by a margin of 69 votes to 4 against. The motion will now go forward to Strathclyde Pension Fund Committee. Full details can be found in this press release from Friends of the Earth Scotland.
At its meeting on March 18th Highland Council Pension Fund agreed to hold a workshop for members of the committee in order to develop and publish a Responsible Investing Policy Statement. This was a key recommendation of the Highland Charter for Responsible Investment campaign.
There’s never been a better time to influence the pension fund’s investment policies. So, if you would like to seize this opportunity and take an active part as a member of the campaign coordinating group, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FoE web page has a link to a number of videos and PDF presentations by a range of experts on various aspects of the general topic of 'Scotland's response to the Climate Emergency'.
Pensions Committee and Board meeting 18 March 2021
This meeting had been the focus of the Highland Charter for Responsible Investment campaign, as one of the items on the agenda was the approval by the Pensions Committee of a new 'Statement of Investment Principles'. It was always unlikely that the document put before the committee would have been significantly changed as a result of the campaign, and in substance it was very similar to the previous version adopted in 2018; but there were hopeful signs.
A new section 17.2 stated
"With a view to developing and publishing a Responsible Investing Policy Statement that is consistent with the Fund’s fiduciary duty, a workshop will be held for the Pensions Committee members during 2021."
It ought not to be too much to expect that this workshop might finally produce a document containing specific criteria regarding the kinds of companies the Pension Fund will and will not invest in, and that its adoption might be followed by rapid divestment from companies in those sectors declared unacceptable.
At least as significant as this technical proposal was the nature of the discussion which preceded the approval of the Statement of Investment Principles, and it was obvious that the Charter campaign had made a considerable impression on many of the committee members. Several, including Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser, declared that the Pension Fund's investment policy must take more account of ethical and humanitarian principles; two demanded specifically that the fund divest from General Dynamics; and one asked why the committee should not immediately adopt the Charter for Responsible Investment. On the other hand one councillor declared that ethical considerations should play no part whatever in the choice of investments, and another accused some of his colleagues of hypocrisy. In other words, a lively discussion, the like of which has probably not been seen in the Pensions Committee for many years.
You can view a webcast of the meeting here . (You can scroll down to go straight to item 5 - Statement of Investment Principles).
HCRI have also produced a report and a transcript of the meeting, and sent an email in which they report the obvious effect the campaign has already had in influencing the attitudes of councillors towards the Pension Fund's investment policy, and announce their intention to formally constitute the campaign.
We would now like to invite people to come forward to establish a representative entity. If you would like to become an active member of the group, please send an email to email@example.com .
Campaign to end Council Pension Fund armaments investments
Local group Highland Palestine has been campaigning since 2018 to persuade Highland Council's Pensions Committee to divest from the Pension Fund's £6 million holding in US armaments manufacturer General Dynamics. A statement issued by the group in October 2018 accused General Dynamics of supplying MK-82 and MK-84 bombs used by Israel against the people of Gaza in 2014, of contributing to the war in Yemen by supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, and of being 'complicit in numerous breaches of international law, human rights violations and potential war crimes.'
The response from the Chair of the council's Pension Fund Committee ranged from bland assurances that the committee 'takes the issue of responsible investment very seriously' to silence, and Highland Palestine concluded that 'there seems to be a general unwillingness on the part of the media and the Council itself to recognise the serious implications for the Council of retaining an investment in General Dynamics.'
In January this hear Highland Palestine broadened their campaign by appealing to a number of local organisations to join a campaign now directed at persuading Highland Council Pension Fund to adopt a ‘Charter for Responsible Investment’, which includes a commitment to draw up a list of specific criteria defining the types of companies in which the Fund would and would not invest, on ethical grounds. The particular focus of the campaign is a meeting on 18 March at which Highland Council Pension Fund Committee and Board will be asked to approve a new ‘Statement of Investment Principles', which is required by law to state the extent to which 'environmental, social and governance' (ESG) principles are taken into account in deciding the Fund's investment policy.
In support of their appeal they attached a detailed and well-researched report reviewing the operation of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme, the growing movement towards ethical investment, the concept of 'fiduciary duty' and statements of investment principles, and the management of the Highland Council Pension fund. They also referred to a report that the North East Scotland Pension Fund had shed investments worth almost £30 million previously held in 23 arms companies following a successful campaign similar to theirs, showing 'that it is possible to persuade local authority pension funds to do the right thing.'
After gaining the support of nearly twenty local organisations, Including TBI, the campaign sent letters, copies of the Charter, and their report to members of the Pensions Committee and Board and all Highland councillors. In the letter they widened the range of their attack from General Dynamics and armaments, accusing councillors of holding 'at least £140 million in companies that damage the environment, are complicit in war crimes and other violations of human rights, harm people’s health, or otherwise undermine the fabric of society. They include companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction, mining, armaments, nuclear processing, gambling, alcohol and tobacco.'
In the final stage of the campaign the Charter group has asked supporting groups to invite all of their members who feel concern about this issue to send a letter they have drafted to the three councillors most directly involved in the management of the Highland Council Pension Fund, in advance of the Pensions Committee and Board meeting on 18 March.
- Wednesday 16 June
- NA 'The Story of Plastic' film discussion - Skye Climate Action
- Tuesday 22 June
- 19:30 SCCAN/TBI/Pebble Trust - Food Alliances: Early Lessons from Highland Good Food
- Tuesday 6 July
- 19:30 TBI Admin (Directors) meeting, 7.30 online (?)
- Saturday 31 July
- NA CCT Black Isle Photographic Competition closes
- Sunday 1 August
- NA Climate Fèis: Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh - all month
- Saturday 14 August
- 14:00 Black Isle Horticultural Society Summer show 2021
- Thursday 4 November
- NA Cycling Scotland Conference 2021
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