17 January 2023 | 3 min. readingtime
Since the war in Ukraine, peace in Europe is no to be taken for granted. The so-called ‘peace dividend’ seems to be on the wane and European governments need to do more to defend themselves. Both militarily and economically.
We believe that a democracy and its citizens should be protected. A democratic state based on the rule of law must have the right means, including weapons, to ensure a free society. From that perspective, since the beginning of our sustainable investment policy in 2007, we have invested in the very governments that respect human rights and stand for democratic values and freedoms for their people.
a.s.r. has excluded direct investments in the arms industry since 2007. That seemed self-evident until the start of the war in Ukraine. Since then, sentiment seems to have tilted. Among others, the Dutch defence minister, the commander of the armed forces of the Dutch army and NATO are calling for investments in arms makers not to be excluded. a.s.r. also gets questions about whether we should not review our policy of not investing in the arms industry. After all, why should we exclude investment in weapons needed to defend our freedoms and values?
These are legitimate questions. And because a.s.r. strives for a sustainable society where people can live in peace and security, a.s.r. reviewed its position on investing in the arms industry in a broad dialogue that included our own investment experts, an ethicist, and the Executive Board. Because we see the need for weapons to defend national borders and the function that weapons have in preventing countries from being attacked. On the other hand, there is the dilemma of how we as investors can finance the arms industry while ensuring that human rights are respected and innocent civilian casualties are prevented if weapons do not end up in the right hands. We as investors in the arms industry cannot ensure that weapons are only used for justifiable purposes; protecting freedom and democracy and upholding the rule of law.
Ultimately, this argument prevailed and led to maintaining the exclusion policy not to invest directly in commercial arms companies or companies trading in arms. We do however continue to do so indirectly through investments in democratic governments. In this way, we want to prevent our policyholders’ money from ending up being used for the wrong purposes. However, this does not affect the fact that we are open to alternative forms of investment, such as a bond loan by the Dutch government meant for defence, which could help make the world a little safer.