Red Cross threatens investor cluster bomb campaign

Danish funds consider cluster bomb boycott after coming under pressure.

The Red Cross says it could organise an international campaign to lobby pension funds over investments in companies linked to the manufacture of cluster bombs. It follows a wave of public pressure in recent days on Danish schemes to boycott investments in related companies after scathing criticism in the media from Danish Church Aid and NGO’s including Danish Red Cross and Amnesty International.
The pressure on Danish funds mirrors the public outcry in the Netherlands during 2007, after a television documentary prompted Dutch pension fund giants ABP and PGGM to pull tens of millions of euros from cluster bomb manufacturers. Industriens Pension, the €6.25bn ($9.1bn) industry-wide pension fund for blue-collar workers, has announced an emergency meeting on February 29 to decide whether it will keep investments in cluster bomb manufacturers.
The fund has come under intense pressure over its holdings, as has Danica Pension, the €33bn pensions arm of Danske Bank. Danica has announced it will pull €13.8m of shares from Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and L-3 Communications. The company will also implement a new ethical investment policy shortly.
Anne Sofie Lauritzen, co-ordinator of the Red Cross’ cluster bomb campaign: “We have close co-operation with other Red Cross organisations and are looking at aninternational campaign. We were pleasantly surprised at the reaction of Danica because we approached them in the morning and they said that the financial implications for members were most important. By the afternoon they issued a statement saying they were pulling out. It’s a positive step and we are wiling to have a dialogue with other funds.” Erik Adolphsen, chief executive officer at Industriens, told Responsible Investor: “We don’t invest in companies linked to landmines because of the Ottawa convention, but there is no convention on cluster bombs and so it is not illegal. It is possible that at the February 29 meeting we could decide to divest.” The holdings of both Industriens and Danica were revealed by DanWatch, a corporate watchdog on Danish investment and trade abroad. Søren Ring, co-founder of DanWatch, said: “The defence made by Industriens is ridiculous. If they want to position themselves as ethical then they will have to go beyond the law because many people feel that cluster bombs are just landmines dropped from the sky.” He said DanWatch was carrying out further research into whether shareholdings by Danish pension funds conformed to standards set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as into investments in the Burmese oil and gas sector.
On 18th February governments and campaigners from around the world will meet in New Zealand to initiate discussions on an international treaty on cluster bombs.