Yesterday's Observer carried a story about local authority investment in tobacco firms. The article claimed that Cornwall Council has £24.5 million invested in tobacco firms through it's pension fund - the biggest investment by a local authority and approximately one fifth of all the money invested by councils in such companies.
I think it is appalling that Cornwall Council does not yet have an ethical investment strategy. I called a number of months ago for action to be taken to make sure that we don't invest in dodgy regimes such as the one in Bahrain. At the time I got a slightly hopeful response from the Cabinet member responsible. However it appears that nothing has yet been done.
Investment in tobacco firms is as bad, if not worse. Although smoking is perfectly legal in the UK, our Council is taking on responsibility for public health issues including stop smoking services. How can we be trying to stop something with one hand whilst hoping tobacco firms make bigger and bigger profits with the other?
I've written today to Cllr Currie and to Cornwall Council's Pensions Committee asking them to adopt an ethical investment strategy as soon as possible and to withdraw from tobacco firm investments immediately.
UPDATE: This story has also been followed up by 'The Skipper' column in the Packet and on ThisisCornwall where the Council's reaction seems to be 'only 2% of our investments are promoting death'.