Waltham Forest Council Questions Pension Investments in Israeli Firms

Waltham Forest Council Questions Pension Investments in Israeli Firms
credit; walthamforestecho

London (Parliament News) – Waltham Forest Council’s pension team is concerned about investments in businesses linked to Israel due to the ongoing war and potential human rights offences. The council is investigating options to avoid complicity in global violations.

Is the Waltham Forest pension fund complicit in human rights abuses?

Waltham Forest Council’s pension team has voiced concern over investments being pushed into businesses with “interests in Israel” in light of the continuing war in the region. The pension committee has stated it is “concerned about any direction the fund has to companies blamed of human rights offences anywhere in the world as well in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Waltham Forest is a partner of the London Collective Investment Vehicle (LCIV), a pooled fund which oversees the pension funds for all 32 London boroughs. A Freedom of Information appeal revealed in March that at least ÂŁ6.63million was being passively supported, by the LCIV, into companies that send spears to Israel or were linked to illegal settlements.

Are council investments tied to Israeli human rights violations?

The pension board – different from the committee – examined the investments in such companies for the first time during a session. Janet Walker, a board member, expressed the prospect of being “complicit” was “troubling” and could not believe a comparable time when so many individuals were concerned about an international issue. Board chairman Chris Buss expressed the council did not need to consider values in its investments, but felt the board should remember its concerns about “all human rights abuses” to the committee.

The council states it has contacted the LCIV to “share its concerns” and is presently “investigating its options” within the Local Government Pension Scheme, which supplies for public sector workers. Rob Manning, the strategic director of resources, said that any divestment must not financially damage the council. 

How is LCIV responding to concerns about Israel ties?

The LCIV states it has “assessed” and “disclosed” its involvement with organisations that were said to “facilitate” human rights misuses in Israel, following a Human Rights Watch report that detailed “crimes of apartheid and persecution” by the Israeli authorities. In a general statement, a spokesperson stated: “We will continue to monitor all relevant lists and identify emerging issues to ensure our funds are not complicit in any violations of human rights or international law anywhere in the world.”

It has also “committed with” companies accused of profiting from the forced labour of Uighurs, supplying arms employed to commit war crimes in Yemen, or maintaining business connections with the military-affiliated Mytel and Viettel in Myanmar. The LCIV expresses it makes such assessments every three months.

How does Waltham Forest plan to address controversial investments?

A spokesperson for Waltham Forest Council previously expressed the LCIV handles its equity investments and that none of the budgets it directly managed were “invested with companies charged of complicity”.

He stated: “Our investors must consider a range of environmental, social, and human rights cases when making investment conclusions and these can have an impact on the future performance of the pension fund.”

He added: “In considering the fund performance we also cannot overlook the fact that some companies linked to human rights breaches are the target of worldwide boycotts and are likely to become difficult investments, and we must therefore act to protect our investments for the people who depend on the pension fund.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.