Report: Banks, Pensions and Nuclear Weapons: Investing in Change

  • Theresa Alessandro

Ash Wednesday  vigil at Westminster Abbey

Ash Wednesday vigil at Westminster Abbey

For more than a year, Pax Christi has been part of an interfaith working group researching the role of our financial institutions in supporting the production of nuclear weapons systems. Today the report we have compiled is being published: Banks, Pensions and Nuclear Weapons: Investing in Change.

The report presents the results of our engagement with a sample of UK banks and pension funds regarding their financial links to companies producing nuclear weapons.

Baroness Sue Miller, Co-President, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, provided the foreword to the report. Noting that nuclear weapons states are likely to spend at least $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next ten years, she says: "Today many financial institutions express their desire to be a force for good in society but may not realise that their loans and investments finance the development of new nuclear weapons."

The report details a sometimes patchy awareness among finance executives of their organisation's record on nuclear weapons investment. Most companies score poorly but some banks and pension funds stated that they are actively reviewing this area. For example, the pension providers People's Pension and NEST (the government's default workplace pension scheme with 4.5 million members), said that they would seek the views of their members on investments in nuclear weapons producers.

It is fitting that today has also been set aside by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation as a Day of Action: Make Peace the New Normal. Pax Christi members hope that the 'new normal' will include the elimination of nuclear weapons. Pope Francis says that 'even their very possession is to be condemned.'

Pax Christi's National President, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon call us all to action: "Pope Francis has written of a 'different kind of economy: one that brings life, not death."

This report looks ahead to when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passes into international law. It highlights that financial institutions in England & Wales may need to change their policy and practice regarding investment in nuclear weapons, in order to comply with this important legal development.

By acting on the information in this report, Christians can be at the forefront of this change. I encourage you to contact your bank and/or pension provider to discuss your concern about any continuing investment in nuclear weapons. In his World Peace Day message this year, Pope Francis reminded us that peace '.. is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law.'

Investment decisions of banks and pension funds in other countries have already changed. The PAX/ICAN Don't Bank on the Bomb project highlights 36 major financial institutions that now have comprehensive nuclear weapons exclusion policies in place.

Pax Christi Director, Theresa, said: "This report and the associated website provide us with the tools to enter into robust dialogue with the banks and pension providers we use. Pax Christi has been campaigning against nuclear weapons for decades. Now is a great time to be part of the demand for change. A world without nuclear weapons is coming."

Robert Harrap of Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai International-UK and member of the research group said "Just as the government has a choice over spending finite resources on health or on modernising nuclear weapons, so do we. We ask our banks and pension funds to invest in humanitarian causes that support life and health for the good of society. We don't accept any rationale for our money being used in the development of weapons that threaten a devastation that would be as great or even greater than a global pandemic."

Marigold Bentley, Quakers in Britain, said that: "All nuclear weapons treaties call for restraint and limitation yet here we are in 2020 and our financial institutions continue to facilitate the nuclear arms race. This must stop and we need to hold banks and pension providers to account and demand change."

The UK Nuclear Weapons Financing Research Group consists of representatives of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church of Scotland, Christian CND, Don't Bank on the Bomb Scotland, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), Methodist Church, Quakers in Britain, Pax Christi UK, Soka Gakkai International-UK and United Reformed Church.

Find the dedicated website with tools to contact financial institutions, here:

Tags: Nuclear Weapons, Pax Christi, Banks, Investment

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