Have you ever wondered what kind of companies your bank invests in and who it lends to? According to a new report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the answer could be that your bank supports a company producing nuclear weapons.
The 180-page study, Don’t Bank on the Bomb: The Global Financing of Nuclear Weapons Producers exposes how more than 300 banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers in 30 countries have substantial investments in major nuclear weapons companies.
Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, who features in the report, urges anyone with a bank account or pension fund to ‘choose to invest his or her money ethically’ and in a way that does not contribute to the ‘earth-endangering enterprise’ of nuclear weapons production.
Making nuclear weapons is a lucrative business. Nuclear-armed nations spend in excess of $100 billion each year maintaining and modernising their nuclear forces. The UK itself intends to spend more than £25 billion over the next two decades just building new submarines to carry its nuclear warheads. The final bill for replacing Trident – the UK’s nuclear weapons system – is likely to reach more than £100 billion.
Five of the twenty major nuclear weapons companies listed in the report – Babcock International, BAE Systems, Redhall Group, Rolls Royce and Serco Group – are UK-based. All of these companies are heavily involved in the manufacture, maintenance and modernisation of Trident. Financial institutions invest in these companies by providing loans and purchasing shares and bonds.
Significantly, the UK is also home to 41 of the 322 financial institutions found to be supporting major nuclear weapons companies. Of these, the most heavily involved in financing nuclear arms include Barclays, HSBC and the part-publicly owned Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Lloyds says its support for nuclear weapons companies is justified because the British government considers its nuclear weapons to be legitimate.
Lloyds stated that, ‘Whilst the UK government remains committed to maintaining its nuclear deterrent, and considers this vital to our national security, we must continue to provide the essential finance to the companies that make this deterrent possible.’
Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system is made up of four nuclear submarines, one of which patrols the seas at all times, carrying up to forty nuclear bombs. Each of these bombs is around eight times as destructive as the bomb which flattened Hiroshima in 1945, killing over 140,000 civilians.
ICAN campaigner Tim Wright, a co-author of the report, points out that any use of nuclear weapons – by the UK or any other state – would violate international law and have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Wright says that by investing in nuclear weapons producers, banks and other financial institutions ‘are in effect facilitating the build-up of nuclear forces. This undermines efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world and heightens the risk that one day these ultimate weapons of mass destruction will be used again.’ Wright argues that instead of building a new generation of nuclear weapons, the UK should honour and implement its existing disarmament commitments by scrapping Trident and supporting negotiations on a global abolition treaty to ban nuclear weapons permanently and ensure their elimination.
From Tim Street, Coordinator, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN-UK)
You can view and download the full report at: www.dontbankonthebomb.com