Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The NZSF grows a conscience

Earlier in the year, the Listener's Matt Nippert revealed that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund was a dirty investor, with almost 10% of its stock holdings held in companies whose business activities were directly at odds with government policy. The NZSF was investing in nuclear weapons, big oil, gambling, private prisons, torture, genocide, and the rape of Iraq - and they were doing it all in our name.

In response, the NZSF promised to develop a responsible investment framework to ensure their investment decisions conform to basic ethical standards. One of their first decisions has been released today, and as a result, the NZSF will be divesting itself of NZ$37.6 million in tobacco industry stocks. I wonder if Nippert can claim a commission?

The background information [PDF] they've released reads like a press release from ASH. Tobacco is legal, but the industry violates basic standards of business ethics and product safety. In addition,

Investment in tobacco stocks is inconsistent with New Zealand’s international commitments, national legislation, and Crown actions – in particular the objectives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its extensive focus on the tobacco industry
So, they're bailing out, and as a result the pensions of those who make it to 65 won't be funded by the deaths of those who didn't due to lung cancer. It's a good decision, and hopefully they'll make the same one on nuclear weapons and Halliburton.