Scientists fighting smoking-related cancer deaths shocked to learn their pensions are invested in Big Tobacco
by: Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) Researchers in the UK who have dedicated their careers to fighting cancer were shocked to learn that their pension funds have invested hundreds of millions in Big Tobacco.
Scientists who receive their funding from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) are also participants in the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a pension fund whose latest annual report reveals a £211m investment in British American Tobacco (BAT).
The BAT investment is the pension fund’s fifth biggest equity holding.
Although CRUK ensures that its own employee pension funds are not invested in tobacco companies, the academic posts funded by the charity receive their pensions through the USS, which was worth £49 billion in 2015.
Pension fund tobacco investment “outrageous,” says cancer researcher
One such CRUK-funded researcher, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Guardian:
“This means that, even if only indirectly through our time and labour, CRUK money is being invested in growing and supporting the tobacco industry. The idea that we all have our pension invested in BAT is outrageous.
“All the work of this institute is done under the guidance of CRUK, and we are, quite rightly, regularly reviewed to ensure that CRUK money is being spent effectively and efficiently in the global fight against cancer. How can this possibly be in line with the fact that most of us will retire comfortably on money earned from tobacco investments?”
CRUK’s tobacco policy manager, George Butterworth, acknowledged the problem:
“The tobacco industry’s deadly products are responsible for one in four cancer deaths. Many people would be shocked to learn that their pensions are invested in tobacco company shares – especially those striving to develop cures for diseases caused by this lethal industry. Cancer Research UK’s own pension funds are tobacco-free, but many of our researchers are based at institutions where that is not the case.
“To help make it easier for organisations’ pension schemes to opt out of tobacco shares, we’re now funding the UK arm of Tobacco Free Portfolios to encourage investment funds to divest from tobacco stocks.”
USS’s lame defense
However, the USS defends its investments in Big Tobacco, claiming that it is working with tobacco companies in an effort to “improve ethical, environmental and governance standards.”
The USS maintains that it is “an active and responsible shareowner, an approach which USS’s trustee believes will protect and enhance the long-term value of the fund.”
From a statement released by the USS:
“In order to ensure appropriate diversification we invest in a wide range of companies and assets.
“We have a significant in-house responsible investment team and work with the companies in which we invest to improve ethical, environmental and governance standards, in the best financial interest of our members and beneficiaries. In recent times, this has included engaging with tobacco companies on marketing approaches and regulations around e-cigarettes. The trustee keeps its approach under review.”
In other words, the USS thinks it can be a positive influence on an industry responsible for one in four cancer deaths, and one which has consistently lied and cheated its way into billions in profits – with absolutely no regard for the millions of people it has addicted and killed.
One in five deaths caused by smoking
According to Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), tobacco is responsible for more than 20 percent of all deaths in the United States. Smoking (http://www.natural.news) killed an estimated 100 million people during the 20th century and could kill as many as 1 billion in this century.
It’s no wonder that UK cancer researchers are outraged to find that their pensions are invested in an industry that causes the very problem they are committed to fighting.
As Prof. Martin McKee, European Public Health Association president, put it: “Given the hard work of so many of its members to eliminate the scourge of tobacco-related death and misery, it is simply unacceptable that USS should continue to invest in this discredited industry.”