Since 2008, all UK-based employers have had a statutory obligation to offer their employees a workplace pension scheme. An estimated £3 trillion is managed by private pension funds in the UK, giving us enormous scope to influence the behaviour of nuclear weapons producers. If the money in our pension funds can be directed away from nuclear weapons producers, this could force those companies to reconsider their involvement in nuclear weapons work.
Pensions can be complex and it may be necessary to do some research to find out where your pension is invested and who you should contact about the fund’s policy. ShareAction is a charity that promotes responsible investment and has lots of useful resources for people who want to promote divestment. ShareAction’s Pension Power Toolkit explains different types of pension funds, offers tips on how you can find out where your pension contributions are invested and includes a step-by-step guide for influencing pension fund policy. ShareActions’s Education and Organising Team is available to provide further assistance and can be contacted via phone or email: 020 7403 7800; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Four steps towards divestment
Step 1: do your research
A: Where your pension is invested and whether divestment is possible
If you’re a member of a statutory pension scheme, for example if you work for NHS Scotland or teach in a state school, divestment will not be possible as your contributions are paid to the state.
If you work for a local authority, you will be a member of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme (see section 3) and there is scope to influence your fund’s policy.
If you work for another type of employer, you should be enrolled in a workplace pension scheme. This might be a scheme specific to your company or something like the National Employment Savings Trust, which is a workplace pension scheme that can be used by any UK employer and currently has around 6 million members.
If your employer has not given you information about your pension scheme, you can request it. You can also contact ShareAction to help you with this.
B: Whether the fund has investments in nuclear weapons producers
Check the DBOTB report’s Hall of Shame, the pension fund’s website or write to the fund. If you work for a local authority, you can check section 3 of this guide to see whether your pension fund is invested in nuclear weapons.
C: Whether the fund has a comprehensive policy prohibiting investments in nuclear weapons producers
Check the DBOTB report’s Hall of Fame, the pension fund’s website or write to the pension fund if necessary.
Step 2: express your concerns
Write to your pension fund’s managers to explain your concerns, request that the fund divest from nuclear weapons producers and adopt a comprehensive policy. We suggest you include the following points:
- Say that you are a member of the fund.
- If the answer to B in step 1 above is yes, say that you are aware of the fund’s investments in nuclear weapons and explain why you believe that the fund should divest (see section 1 for arguments that you can use).
- If the answer to C in step 1 above is no, suggest that the fund adopt a comprehensive policy prohibiting investment in nuclear weapons producers. There are many examples of comprehensive policies in the report’s Hall of Fame which you can point to. Check the report’s Runners-up category, as the fund may already have a policy which can be strengthened.
- Let them know that you expect a response and say that you will move your money if the fund does not adopt a comprehensive policy.
Step 3: arrange a meeting
Seeking a face-to-face meeting with representatives of the fund is the best way to effect change, according to ShareAction. ShareAction also recommends forming a group with like-minded fund members and approaching the fund collectively. You will need to decide who the best person is to approach for your fund and the Pension Power Toolkit gives some suggestions: it could be the fund’s trustees, asset managers or designated responsible investment officers. You can also contact your union, as there will often be union representatives serving as trustees of the pension fund.
Step 4: move your money
Workplace pension schemes often offer a choice of funds and you may be able to move your pension into an ethical fund with a policy relating to nuclear weapons. You can check whether the policy is comprehensive and whether the fund has investments in nuclear weapons producers as per step 1 above.