Swiss state pension fund to disinvest in arms firms

400Swiss state pension fund Publica said it will divest from five weapons companies in response to an ongoing campaign by the Swiss Association for Responsible Investments (SVVK – ASIR) to blacklist 15 international arms manufacturers.

According to Swiss public radio, the CHF37 billion ($38 billion) Publica, Switzerland’s biggest pension fund, is selling off its stakes in five arms manufacturers from its investment portfolio. However, the fund wouldn’t specify which firms would be affected. Publica currently has 63,000 people paying in to the fund and 43,000 recipients, mainly government civil servants and employees at the federal institutes of technology. Last September the government revealed that federal investments in arms manufacturers amounted to CHF110 million, or 0.3% of the total fortune of the Publica state pension fund.

The 15 companies blacklisted by SVVK – ASIR are from India, Israel, Romania, Russia, South Korea, and the US, and include firms such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Hanwha, and Poongsan. The organization accuses the firms of making products that violate Swiss law and internationally recognized conventions, such as the Ottawa Convention, which bans anti-personnel mines, and the Oslo Convention regarding cluster munitions. 

“We want to ensure that the assets that we have invested in at Publica do not violate Swiss laws and norms or international treaties,” Patrick Uelfeti, Publica’s head of portfolio management, told Swiss public radio.

Earlier this year, Swiss pacifist group ‘Switzerland Without an Army’ initiated a campaign to ban the financing of companies that produce weapons. The group has until October 11, 2018, to gather signatures from 100,000 Swiss to trigger a nationwide vote on the subject.

The SVVK-ASIR says it bases its divestment recommendations on Swiss laws and international conventions. Manufacturers of anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, and biological and chemical weapons are explicitly prohibited according to the laws.

However, SVVK-ASIR does not recommend excluding all arms companies because Switzerland has its own army to safeguard its sovereignty. The Swiss Army relies on the use of conventional weapons to carry out its activities, said the group, and some of the weapons are made by Swiss companies. SVVK-ASIR said it only objects to manufacturers who infringe upon Switzerland’s Federal Act on War Material. The act aims to control the manufacture and transfer of war material and related technology, while maintaining an industrial capacity in Switzerland that it adapted to the requirements of its national defense.
Supporters of the people’s initiative, like Green Party MP, Balthasar Glättli, say they hope the move will encourage other pension funds to take a similar step. 

SVVK-ASIR has seven members: first pillar fund buffer Compenswiss/AHV; the pension scheme for telecommunications company Swisscom (comPlan); accident insurance fund Suva; public pension fund Publica; and the pension funds for the postal service (Pensionskasse Post), federal railways (Pensionskasse SBB), and the canton of Zurich (BVK).


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