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2 Nov 2015

Judith Evans, Financial Times (UK)

European pension funds begin to consider companies' treatment of refugees & asylum seekers in investment decisions

"Migrant crisis on pension funds’ radar", 1 Nov 2015

A successful campaign to persuade Australian pension funds to divest from a company accused of human rights abuses in migrant detention centres has brought the issue onto the radar of some of Europe’s largest investors...Hesta, one of Australia’s largest retirement savings funds for health and community services workers, sold its 3.5 per cent stake in Transfield after activists ran a campaign on Twitter, the microblogging site, and other social media under the hashtag #HestaDivest...UniSuper, which provides pensions for higher-education employees, also sold its stake last year...NGS Super, a pension scheme for private-school teachers, sold in August on “moral” grounds. Christian Super has excluded the stock from its investment options, while First State Super said it had sold as part of “our normal investment decision making processes”...Transfield, which was renamed Broadspectrum in September, says it operates with a “zero-harm mentality”. “The vast majority of our [shareholder] register remains supportive and has not changed,” the company adds...

This rare example of mass shareholder action over treatment of migrants in Australia has drawn attention in Europe, where an influx of refugees from Syria and other war zones has brought the question of how countries handle asylum seekers to the foreground...Michael Jantzi, chief executive of Sustainalytics...says his company began raising the issue of migrant detention with clients last year...One of Europe’s largest 20 asset managers by funds under management, which asked not to be named, says it excluded G4S, the London-listed security company, from its actively managed funds last year because of human rights concerns, relating in part to the migrant detention centres it runs...On that incident, G4S says: “Two investigations commissioned by the Australian government since the incident presented no finding or recommendation that G4S caused or contributed to any breach of human rights at the centre.”...[Also refers to ABP, Alliance Trust Investments, Geo Group, Serco, Mitie, Nordea Asset Management]