Campaigners welcome Strathclyde Pension Fund removal of complicit companies from asset list
9 March 2021
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) has welcomed news that Strathclyde Pension Fund (SPF) has ended direct investments in companies found to be complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.
SPSC has worked for several years as part of the Time to Divest campaign, an initiative supported by Unison Scotland. Time to Divest is a response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel (BDS), which demands equality, freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. Through the Time to Divest campaign, constituents and members of SPF and other local authority pension funds have sent thousands of letters to their Councillors asking them to support divestment from complicit companies.
The SPF asset list dated 31 December 2020 shows that they no longer hold direct investments in Boeing, Caterpillar, DXC Technology, General Dynamics, General Electric, L3Harris Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, and Lockheed Martin. All these companies have been recommended by SPSC and the wider movement for Palestinian rights for divestment because of research showing their involvement with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
The fund, the largest local authority pension fund in Scotland and second largest in the UK, has also dropped their direct holdings in companies identified by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as involved in activities related to the illegal Israeli settlements. These companies are Expedia Group, General Mills, Bookings Holdings (which owns Bookings.com), Motorola Solutions, and Noble Energy.
Gerry Coutts, on behalf of SPSC, welcomed this development but has raised concerns regarding SPF’s strategy and commitment to responsible investment:
‘We are pleased to see that the companies that we identified as being complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and of Palestinian rights have been removed from SPF’s asset list, except for Bae Systems and HP Enterprise. The action taken by SPF is further evidence that investments in companies manufacturing/supplying arms to Israel and companies complicit in the Israeli occupation economy of the West Bank are causing reputational damage to pension funds. After further investigation we discovered that the 794 out of 1309 holdings removed includes those in arms and fossil fuel companies.’
‘However, Councillor Alan Gow, a member of the Pension Committee, has claimed that these companies ‘were included in a passive equity (index tracking) strategy managed by Legal and General’, in other words SPF has moved these holdings to a pooled fund.’
‘This information, if accurate, raises serious concerns about transparency and SPF’s commitment to responsible investment. We are all aware that COP26 is due to take place in Glasgow later this year and SPF has been under pressure to clean up their act in relation to their investments in fossil fuels and in companies complicit in human rights violations. Is this move a cover up and is effectively just a PR exercise?’
‘There is debate in the pensions industry about the ability of pension schemes that invest in pooled funds to properly deliver on their stewardship responsibilities. Pension funds take decisions to divest every day, and regardless of SPF’s claims, these decisions can and do involve environmental, social and human rights issues. For all their claims that engagement is the best approach, SPF has even failed to ensure they properly engage with DXC Technology and HP Enterprise in relation to the involvement of these companies in Israel’s illegal occupation. By moving a portion of their direct investments that have proved ‘controversial’ to an externally managed pooled fund, rather than divest – and while we understand why SPF would want to distance themselves from these companies – SPF will find it more difficult to meet their stewardship responsibilities to members.’
Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights – 9 July 2005, https://www.bdsmovement.net/call
The OHCHR report is the result of ‘the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. In its report, the fact-finding mission set out a list of activities that raised particular human rights concerns for it…’,
The GES report referred to above provides some information regarding HPE’s involvement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The minutes of the Pension Board meeting on 23 February 2021 that Sustainalytics produced an updated report in relation to DXC and HPE in the OPT, we have requested a copy of this report.2018 GES report on DXC
Technology and HP Enterprise: https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/viewDoc.asp?c=P62AFQDN2UZ3810GDN
SPSC response: https://www.timetodivest.net/lapf-scotland/strathclyde/
Pension Board minutes, February 2021: https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/viewDoc.asp?c=P62AFQDNDXZLNT0GZL
794 (out of 1309) companies that were on the March 2020 Asset List are not on the December 2020 Asset List. We have requested information about the selection criteria used to exclude certain investments going forward.
Strathclyde Pension Fund asset list as at 31 December 2020: https://www.timetodivest.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2020.12.31-Asset-List-SPF.pdf
Strathclyde Pension Fund asset list as at 31 March 2020: https://www.timetodivest.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2020.03.31_Strathclyde_Pension_Fund_Assets.pdf