by Dominique Jaussi, co-founder Business & Human Rights Conform (BHRC)
Does Switzerland possess weapons of mass destruction? Obviously we don’t. However, several Swiss financial institutions are heavily invested in weapons producers: a paradoxical situation that needs to be challenged.
On the one hand Switzerland is part of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), thus, not allowed to own nuclear weapons. But on the other hand its financial institutions simultaneously buy shares of those companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons- and try to profit from those investments. Furthermore, not only private institutions, but – even more disturbing – public institutions too are invested in this inhumane business. For example the Swiss National Bank (SNB) owns shares worth at least 600 million USD of businesses which are involved in the production of controversial weapons.
Several pension funds also control investments in a number of weapons producers. According to the Swiss social security law it is mandatory for every employee to pay a part of his salary into a pension fund. The employee has no possibility to influence the investment policy of his pension fund. Thus, he is not able to influence how his own pension money is invested.. From our point of view this situation is unacceptable.
Changing the status quo
How can we change this situation? One possible avenue is to play the name and shame game. However, this always bears the danger that pension funds will adopt a fluffy self-regulation policy with a lot of loopholes. Therefore, a Swiss pacifist organisation (Group Switzerland without Army, GSoA) decided to launch several initiatives to ban investments in weapons producers. The aim is to have binding legal rules instead of self-regulation or CSR-policies.
As a first step they launched several local initiatives in larger cities. These initiatives will prohibit investments of public asset in those corporations (for state-controlled pension funds and the city in general). The second step, starting next spring, they will launch an initiative on national level. This contributes to the stigmatisation of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the campaign will enable us to have a public discussion of the humanity of weapons, which will help us in regard to our efforts to change the Swiss policy on nuclear weapons.
Click here to find out which Swiss financial institutions are involved in financing nuclear weapons producers.
For more information about BHCR go to: http://bhrc.ch/
To stay updated on the Swiss divestment campaign, go to: http://www.gsoa.ch/.