Universities Superannuation Scheme - Where Does The Money Go?
Two Hundred Thousand people dead in East Timor. Deaths funded by unethically invested money. Are we to blame?
Every month, 6% of lecturers' salaries is paid to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) as a pension contribution. USS invests £13.5 billion on behalf of 130000 academics, but without any apparent, active ethical or environmental investment policy. This means that although USS is a successful fund which is managed prudently, it does not actively monitor the social or environmental impacts of the companies in which it invests. So money from the USS pension scheme is used to support the activities of multinational companies. These companies operate above the law. They are so vast that they can influence the decisions of governments. For example, £300 million is invested in Shell, whose oil activities in Nigeria have caused international concern, particularly after the country's military dictatorship executed environmental and human rights campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa. This act was condemned by Hull University Union Council in December 1995, and as a result Union vehicles are mandated not to buy from Shell petrol stations. Shell is the fourth largest USS investment.
£43 million is invested in British Aerospace, who are currently exporting Hawk ground-attack aircraft to Indonesia, one of the world's most brutal regimes, whose military have killed over 200000 people in the occupied nation of East Timor.
What's more, with the exception of its 20 largest investments, USS chooses not to reveal where it invests its money.
However, it's not just other people's money that is invested unethically. Did you know that Midland, Barclays and NatWest all lent money to Iraq - even after Saddam Hussein was known to be practising 30 different methods of torture on his own people1? In fact most banks forget customers' ethics when they lend out their money.
Ethical investment is established and reputable. £10 billion is currently invested in the UK using ethical criteria and a further $100 billion is similarly invested in the USA. Established ethical funds have already proved the financial case for ethical investment. For example, the average UK ethical unit trust beat the average of all UK unit trusts by 13% between 1991 and 1996.
The Ethics for USS campaign is one of those run by Third World First, which can be accessed via the links page.
1 - Amnesty International report Torture in Iraq, 1982-84.