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