- A new report highlights private investments in companies that work on nuclear weapons systems.
- The report, called “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” includes data from major retirement funds, pensions, and other publicly disclosed investments from January 2014 through October 2017.
- Peace organisations behind the report aim to encourage “divesting from nuclear weapon[s] producers.”
- However, the report does not cover government spending, nor does it specify how much money went specifically toward nuclear-weapons-related work.
But understanding exactly which companies your funds invest in – and how those entities make money – is much less straightforward.
A new financial report, titled “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” hopes to shed light on one pervasive and profitable industry that’s powered in part by 401(k)s, pensions, individual retirement accounts, and other private funds: nuclear weapons.
“Financial institutions have a choice, either to contribute to the end of nuclear weapons, or to provide the financing that will allow nuclear weapons to end us,” said the authors of the 2018 report, which was provided to Business Insider in advance of its publication.
Peace organisations have assembled the report annually since 2013. This year, the report covers publicly disclosed investments made by financial institutions from January 2014 through October 2017, and it excludes those “made by governments, universities, or churches.”
About $US525 billion was managed by “329 significant investors” that include “banks, insurance companies, pension funds and asset managers from 24 countries” – all of which, according to the report, “invest significantly in the top 20 nuclear weapon producers.”
What the report found
Below is the report’s list of companies that perform nuclear-weapons work, and how much investment they received over about 3.75 years.
The report tallies both direct funding, such as capital investments, and indirect contributions such as those made through index funds, which are managed by third parties.
“The research includes all outstanding loans and credit facilities during the research period, not only new loans issued,” the report said.
“Don’t Bank on the Bomb” also includes a “Hall of Shame” list that covers the hundreds of investors that allocated money to these 20 companies.
The chart below – created by Business Insider using report data – highlights the top 20 of these financial institutions and their total contributions.
Many of the financial institutions manage employee retirement accounts and pensions. (Business Insider’s parent corporation, Insider Inc., uses Vanguard to administer its employees’ 401(k) plan.)
These total amounts, in the tens of billions, are impressive. But the nuclear-weapons-producing companies listed above dabble in all sorts of industries, so they use the money to create everything from air conditioners and aeroplanes to rockets and satellites.
The 2018 “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report does not specify how much of the investments it listed specifically went toward the business of nuclear weapons – work that includes research,development, and maintenance. Similarly, details on the investing side also weren’t provided, and some investors listed above manage trillions of dollars in assets per year.
Business Insider contacted the top three companies and top-three financial institutions listed above to determine funding allocations. Many did not return our calls or respond to our emails in time for publication.
A Honeywell representative declined to comment and instead directed us to the company’s latest financial report. Along with the financial statements of other companies, it does not provide a detailed ledger of business related to work on nuclear weapons.
“[A]s one of the largest mutual fund firms in the world, in aggregate Vanguard funds own public shares in nearly every publicly traded company in the world,” a company representative told Business Insider in an email. “Furthermore, the vast majority of our assets reside in index funds, which seek to track a target benchmark constructed by independent third parties.”
We asked Vanguard’s representative if the company planned to create a product or service that would allow its clients to exclude certain stocks from their portfolios, as BlackRock said it is doing for gunmakers and gun retailers.
“We understand that investors hold a wide variety of personal beliefs that they want reflected in their investment holdings and may wish to avoid certain companies,” she said, adding that some of its funds – such as the Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund – “which screens companies based on certain social, human rights, and environmental criteria.”
“Don’t Bank on the Bomb” names dozens of institutions in its “Hall of Fame” category that wholly exclude investments in companies that work on nuclear weapons. It also has a “Runners-up” category of institutions “that have taken the step to exclude nuclear weapon producers from their investments, but whose policy is not all-inclusive in preventing all types of financial involvement with nuclear weapon companies.”
A financial push to ban the bomb
Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote a forward to the “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report.
“Nuclear weapons, like other weapons of mass destruction, are now forbidden by international treaty,” Fihn said
Fihn’s comment refers to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – a legally-binding ban that she helped the United Nations pass in July 2017. (The US and eight other nuclear-armed nations have yet to sign or ratify the treaty.)
In terms of an effort to ban nuclear weapons via finances, a lack of government investment data is notable.
President Donald Trump also plans to modify and expand a Obama-era nuclear weapons modernisation program that may cost US taxpayers more than $US1.7 trillion over 30 years.
The report also excludes government investments made by China, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and Russia – the latter of which recently claimed that it has created “invincible” nuclear armaments.