Best Practices: A Swedish Case Study

In Sweden, the first step in the campaign was to contact all of the CEOs of the Swedish banks identified in the report. The letters included quotes from the report about that specific financial institution and a request for a meeting to discuss the matter further.  Soon after sending these emails and letters, we were invited to meet with representatives of four banks to discuss the report. We went well prepared, with at least two people to the meetings. The banks were usually represented by two people as well, one financial expert and one person knowledgeable about sustainability. At times, it was hard to find the right way to talk with the financial experts. In those cases, the sustainability person was generally very useful in finding common ground. It helped, we noticed, if we brought someone knowledgeable about economics.

The first banks that we met with claimed to have very recently divested from all nuclear weapon companies. This complicated things a bit for us, and we found out how hard it can be to check what banks say. We decided in the end to keep using the figures as they were in the Don’t Bank on the Bomb report, trusting that the banks would correct us if they wanted.

We also held a round table discussion with financial institutions. This was arranged with the Swedish Red Cross and Ethix SRI Advisors, a company that advises banks on ethical investments. There was also a representative of the Swedish MFA. It was great to have all these people together to talk about the issue, but for a while we were also annoyed that nothing seemed to change, apart from getting extra attention in the media.  It wasn’t until about a year later that we learned one of the banks had decided to divest from nuclear weapons producers.

Each time the report comes out we manage to get good media attention. It is a way to make nuclear weapons relevant for Sweden. With the first press release, some newspapers wrote about the report and the involvement of the banks in nuclear weapons. The original newspaper coverage resulted in people asking the banks questions about their involvement with nuclear weapons on their Facebook pages. That started to build up momentum, and for a while questions about nuclear weapons investments ranked top of the list on some of the banks Facebook pages.

The report provided a good angle for the media and led to a whole new group of people becoming concerned about nuclear weapons- and willing to take some action.  There are now pretty regular discussions among the Swedish financial institutions, about their policies regarding nuclear weapons, and the policies are slowly growing stronger.

Josefin Lind is the Information Manager at Swedish Physicians Against Nuclear Weapons 

This report provides the basis for coordinated campaigning to discourage financial institutions from investing in nuclear weapons companies. Taking action can involve meeting with bank representatives, organizing protests outside their headquarters or branches, raising public awareness, finding allies and promoting legislation prohibiting investment. You can also use social media, like twitter.

Download the Campaigner Guide.

Send a message to financial institutions!

I’ve decided to divest, what now? 

Why Campaign on Divestment?

Open the debate! Disinvestment campaigns attract media attention and re-open discussions as to what is acceptable and what is not. Showing that there is less interest in financing the bomb shows that nuclear weapons are less legitimate. This can help to sway politicians and civil servants and reactivate the debate about nuclear weapons in a different way.

Build new norms! Once financial institutions change their policies to ban investment in nuclear weapons, they start developing new investment standards and norms. Financial institutions represent a huge influence on producers of nuclear weapons, and have the power to directly influence and engage with producers of nuclear weapons. Working with financial institutions is a powerful way to directly influence companies practices and demonstrate that nuclear weapons are not a feasible long term business interest.

Reach the whole of society! This activity lets you reach out to financial institutions, ministries of finance, companies, ethical advisor firms- a whole new range of actors to generate and demonstrate whole of society support for a ban!

Everyone can act! Often, nuclear weapons are a vague and distant idea- they are not real or connected to day to day life, and acting for abolition feels like something for policy experts only. But almost everybody has a bank account. By building a “not with my money!” feeling, we can encourage people to contact their banks or pension funds and take useful action to ban (investments) in the bomb. It brings the issue closer to people’s day to day life, with an opportunity to act.

Get creative! This type of campaigning is focused, targeted, empowering and effective. Divestment efforts also give you a chance to get creative and use an all inclusive approach to reach out and speak out against nuclear weapons.

No party excuses! Divestment efforts are not tied to one political party or political side of the spectrum. Divestment is a way to reach across party divides and build broad inclusive relationships in the campaign to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.

It Works! In recent years the financial industry has become increasingly aware of the importance of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) practices. Since these SRI go beyond legal obligations, campaigners can demonstrate success for the cause before any legal international framework compels financial institutions to act.

Engage the Public

Engage the Media

Engage the Government

Engage Financial Institutions