Monday, 23 July 2007

AXA divests (partly) from landmines and cluster bombs

Last week AXA announced to pull out investments of companies that produce anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. This is surprising good news from the Paris headquarters of this bank-insurance company. For last years AXA has shown heavy reluctance to adopt stricter weapon investment policies. The decision by AXA to divest from anti-personnel mines dates back to 2006. AXA claims to have fully implemented this policy now. Divesting from cluster bombs producers is a new move in the AXA investment policy. The group refers to the emerging international consensus around a ban on cluster bombs and to the ‘Oslo process’. This initiative by Norway already managed to get more than seventy countries working on an international treaty against cluster munitions.

The campaign ‘My Money. Clear Conscience?’ by Netwerk Vlaanderen, Vrede, Vredesactie and Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels has now managed to convince the five most prominent banks in Belgium to divest from anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. But not merely Belgian organisations raised the pressure on AXA. In 2006 the Netwerk Vlaanderen report ‘Explosive Portfolio’s’ revealed that AXA invested more than US$5.5bn in 13 producers of cluster munitions. This inspired Amnesty International France and Handicap International France to start campaigning against these investments. In March 2007 both NGOs even decided to break up their insurance contracts with AXA.

The new policy by AXA is an important step ahead. But AXA still doesn’t take its full responsibility. The recent move only covers AXA’s direct investments. The general account insurance assets, including the invested insurance premiums, will no longer be invested in producers of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. But an investor buying shares of an AXA investment fund has no reason to be at ease. Such investments ‘on behalf of third parties’ are not covered by the new policy. Through AXA investment funds investments in producers like Lockheed Martin, ATK and Raytheon will go on. And this is not a minor exception. In 2006 52% of AXA’s € 1,315 billion assets under management were ‘on behalf of third parties. So the new policy merely covers half of AXA’s investments.

1 comment:

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