Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Unison steps up capital stewardship work

Just received the release below from a mate at Unison. Also worth checking out this conference debate about investments in arms companies. I personally think divestment from "unethical" industries is a bit of a dead end unless you have a clear mandate from your beneficiaries (ie it clearly makes sense for the pension fund of a cancer charity not to invest in tobacco companies). It makes it easier for opponents of responsible investment to pigeonhole you as a) politically-motivated and b) uninterested in funding pensions. But it's good to see that the issues are at least being debated.

Anyway, here's the release:



Britain’s largest public sector union, UNISON, is calling on workers to serve as trustees on occupational pension schemes and has become the first in the country to set up such an extensive training scheme for shareholder activism, it was announced today at its National Conference in Brighton.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

“Through their occupational pension schemes and savings, citizens are now collectively the majority owners of most large companies. If people want a real say on how companies conduct themselves, then they should consider becoming trustees on pension boards, who ultimately decide where to invest.

“Concerns over corporate behaviour and asset stripping by private equity groups are strong arguments for greater shareholder scrutiny and empowerment. There is also strong evidence to suggest that the more representative fund boards are, the better they perform.”

By October this year, pension scheme boards are required to have one-third of seats allocated to member-nominated trustees, increasing to half by 2009.

UNISON has launched a web-based community and training programme to provide support for its first wave of Member Nominated Representatives (MNR) and started the ‘capital stewardship’ campaign to sign up pension scheme members to become MNR trustees.

UNISON is also committed to co-ordinate with other active investor bodies over issues of mutual or ethical concerns, such as arms trading, climate change, and excessive board remuneration that might diminish company financial stability. Knowledgeable UNISON members could also benefit investor boards by plugging a deficit of expertise in workforce issues and laws.

Further information: Press Officer Richard Bingley on 01273 732057 or 07957 505675

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