Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cluster munitions investing banned outright by NEI Investments and Desjardins Investments

Two of Canada's leading responsible investment firms said today that they are banning all investment in companies that manufacture cluster bombs. Such weapons have long been excluded by SRI funds, including Desjardins Investments' SRI fund family and NEI Investments' Ethical Funds family. Today's announcement extends that exclusion to all of their conventional fund families as well.

Cluster munitions are banned under international humanitarian law, the companies noted in a joint press release. In November 2014, Canada passed legislation to make it illegal for Canadians to make, use or trade these weapons anywhere in the world, or to “aid, abet or counsel” such activity. When introducing the legislation in the Senate, the government indicated that this would include knowingly investing in a cluster munitions manufacturer.

“These are indiscriminate and abhorrent weapons, responsible for thousands of civilian deaths,” said John Kearns, CEO of NEI Investments. “The implications of the new cluster munitions act have not been widely discussed in the investment industry, but as responsible investment leaders we want to demonstrate how you can exclude these weapons from the entire investment universe.”

Kearns says NEI will also be engaging companies on cluster munitions as part of its corporate engagement strategy for 2015.

“By banning investment in cluster bombs, Desjardins Investments is applying a responsible investment strategy to all Desjardins specialized savings products,” added Desjardins Investments chief operating officer Eric Landry. “With this decision, we reassert a cooperative value: money should be working for people, not the other way around.”

Ottawa-based NGO Mines Action Canada has successfully advocated for the destruction of Canada's cluster munitions stockpile, as well as for industry-wide divestment from cluster munitions manufacturers.

“Cluster munitions are claiming civilian lives in the conflict areas of Syria and eastern Ukraine today, and sub-munitions dropped decades ago in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia continue to cause deaths from delayed detonations. Yet, between 2011 and 2014, financial institutions across the world have invested US $27 billion in producers of these inhumane weapons,” said Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada.

“We applaud financial institutions taking a stand against cluster munitions, and ask their peers to do the same by introducing policies to ensure they are not supporting companies involved in the production of these illegal weapons.”

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