Human rights violations, arms deals and use of child labour are merely some of the allegations that surfaced at companies backed by a £7 billion pension fund designed for local government workers in Essex, and the Essex Pension Fun is one of the biggest local government pension schemes in the United Kingdom making investments on behalf of thousands of workers including council workers, teachers and charity workers.
But an inquiry has disclosed the fund is supporting some companies cited of immoral practices.
The fund includes £24.7 million in Tata Consultancy and £5.9 million in Tata Power. Both are subsidiaries of an Indian multinational corporation called the Tata Group, which claimed in September last year of providing military transportations to Myanmar.
The statement was made only four days before the United Nations (UN) cited the country’s military leaders of the “gravest” atrocities against ethnic groups, including genocide. Tata Group was contacted for comment.
Around £600,000 has further been invested in BAE Systems. The British company provides fighter planes to Saudi Arabia which may have been used in Yemen, and the UN warned the bombardment has created the worst famine in the world in 100 years and BAE’s chairman has told shareholders he does not know if the company’s products were used in war atrocities.
BAE Systems provides defence equipment, training and support under government-to-government agreements between the United Kingdom and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As an international company, BAE Systems has operations in many countries, and that it complies with all appropriate export control requirements and regulations in the nations in which it operates.
Other investments include £560,341 in Glencore, previously cited of using child labour in mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but a spokesperson for the company called the claims entirely without merit, and that they prioritise regard for human rights everywhere that they operate, and that they uphold the human rights of their people and their communities, including vulnerable groups such as women, children, native people and victims of conflict.
An extra £155,316 had further been invested in British American Tobacco, and numerous observers would point at our history of delivering regular returns to shareholders as a basis on why our shares are deemed attractive, and a pension fund for the public sector workers rejected concerns about immoral investment, maintaining that their purpose was to secure the highest return.
But the principal duty of the Essex Pension Fund is to guarantee that it has adequate reserves free to pay pensions on behalf of more than 160,000 people, including workers at councils, schools, colleges, universities and the fire and rescue service.
However, do people really care about where they’re pension pots are invested? Perhaps not, as long as it makes them money, they don’t actually think about whether it’s going to fossil fuels, the arms trade or any other ethical deal, they work laboriously, earn it and spend it on what they want.
Most people don’t care about anyone else, as long as they’re alright, and as a pensioner, they obviously want the best possible return because it’s no good having emotional awareness and a small pension.
The only thing that matters is profit, and that’s profit at any price, but what should matter is your pensions, those pensions you’ve paid into for years, and of course, you don’t want some meddlesome troublemaker striving to diminish its value.
Councils should establish a criterion and guarantee that the Essex Pension Fund is invested positively and ethically because pension funds exist to provide a safe haven for pension savings and a good return.
They’re not there to make a statement, political or virtuous, and some people might get a warm blushing glow from a small pension, knowing that it was invested ethically or in keeping with the latest virtue signalling fad, but most people wouldn’t agree with this.
And when we’re discussing public money, councillors need to be clear and precise about its use or where it’s invested.