Monday, 12 November 2007

Greens target pension funds

It looks like the Green Party is having a bit of a mini-campaign around disinvestment from companies doing business with Burma. The push within the Lewisham pension fund was featured on TV a couple of weeks back, but I've just noticed that they are also raising the issue in Waltham Forest. Surely this is the sort if thing Labour should be leading on?

WALTHAM FOREST: Council ‘has invested in the Burmese junta’
By Hannah Crown
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BURMA'S repressive military regime is being supported by Waltham Forest Council, according to campaigners.

Information obtained by the Green Party shows that in the past three months the council has invested an undisclosed portion of its employees' pension fund, which has net assets worth £496m, into oil company Total, Europe's biggest investor in Burma.

It also invests in Chevron, and CNOOC, which are also involved in developing offshore gas fields in regions bordering Burma, and Danish shipping company Maersk, which uses the state-owned railway for exports.

advertisementAll four appear on the Burma Campaign's dirty list' of companies which have a "significant presence" in Burma, whose involvement "indirectly or directly helps keep the military regime in power."

The south Asian country has been the focus of international condemnation after it emerged that peaceful pro-democracy protesters, including Buddhist monks, have been murdered and imprisoned by the ruling military junta.

The council's move has been condemned as "disgraceful" by a spokeswoman for Burma Campaign UK.

Mark Dawes, of the Redbridge and Waltham Forest Green party, said the council had an inconsistent record on ethical investments, as it refused to invest in companies related to the tobacco industry.

He added: "There are now ethical funds that do give a good return on investments without investing in companies that support human rights-abusing regimes."

Exiled leader of the democratic opposition in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for a boycott of all foreign investment in the country, while several household names such as Adidas have deliberately pulled out of the area for practical and ethical reasons.

Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Keith Rayner, said: "We have a legal duty to maximise the return to our pension fund and we meet this duty by employing professional fund managers and following their advice.

"While we aim to invest as ethically as possible we are unable to restrict the ability of the fund manager to invest in particular stocks and shares if that would be to the detriment of the fund."

A council spokesman denied Mr Dawes' claims that it had refused to invest in the tobacco industry.

2:45pm Wednesday 31st October 2007

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