UK pension funds and asset management companies could potentially have £37 billion invested in 'land grabs' worldwide, according to a new report published today (Thursday 12 June 2014) by Friends of the Earth.
The report, 'What's your pension funding? How UK Institutional Investors finance the global land grab', is the first time UK pension funds and asset management companies have been linked directly – via their investments – to global firms either known or alleged to be involved in cases of land grabbing from communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Household names including British Airways Pension Fund, Legal & General, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and Aviva Investors have been identified in the report.
Land grabbing is when wealthy businesses purchase large pieces of cheap 'unused' land, often to grow crops for fuel and for other industries, and infringe the rights of the affected people and communities. This sometimes results in families being forcibly kicked off the land they are using to grow food and not being given compensation.
Friends of the Earth Land Grabs Campaigner Samuel Lowe said:
"Our future retirement funds are often being secured at the expense of the poor and powerless through widespread land grabbing – in some cases our pensions are actually under threat of being wiped-out due to the risky nature of large-scale land acquisition deals.
"There needs to be stringent international laws to rule out all of the impacts associated with land grabbing – UK investors must stop funding companies linked to this scandal."
Many of these investments in companies involved in large-scale land acquisitions made by UK pension funds may be fuelling and financing an unprecedented global land grab; potentially violating human rights; destroying local food security, livelihoods, forests and sensitive habitats; and further impoverishing some of the poorest and most powerless communities on earth. In a small number of these cases, lives have been lost.
Friends of the Earth is calling for:
• Tougher regulation of UK pension funds and asset management firms: with at least £37 billion invested in companies linked to or associated with 'land grabs' worldwide, the role played by these firms must be examined by the Government.
• Institutional investors to stop investing in companies linked to, or associated with, large-scale land acquisitions, until there are UK laws to rule out the wide range of social and environmental impacts of land grabs.
• Governments to urgently bring UN Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests into legislation with the explicit aim of ruling out land grabs in their own, and in other countries.