Furore recalls Zembla pension fund exposé of 2007
Dutch Parliament building, The Hague
A Dutch parliamentarian (MP) has called for an annual “naming-and-shaming” of charities and foundations who fail to demonstrate that they invest responsibly, after a Dutch television documentary revealed that donor money was being invested in controversial companies, including a major children’s charity with assets in tobacco stocks and an allocation by the country’s Heart Foundation to cluster bomb manufacturers. The ‘name-and-shame’ call by Helma Neppérus, a member of the ruling Dutch liberal party (VVD), recalls the public controversy of March 2007 when Zembla, a Dutch current affairs programme, revealed that some large Dutch pension funds were invested in companies involved in child labour and the production of landmines and cluster bombs. Many developed responsible investment policies as a result. The latest documentary by the VARA broadcast organisation as part of its ‘Uitgesproken’ (outspoken) series, presented results of its own in-house research, which included the finding that Jantje Beton, the children’s charity, was invested in tobacco, weapons and nuclear power. The revelation has prompted the charity to withdraw money from an ING Euro Credit Bond Fund, which didn’t meet a sustainability review, and move to a cash deposit. The Heart Foundation was found to have exposure to cluster bombs manufacturers via an index investment. In response to the programme, the Heart Foundation, said: “We did not know that we were an
indirect investor in a manufacturer in cluster munitions. We find it important to only invest in reliable and sustainable funds; it is our moral duty but also our policy.” Earlier this year, the Dutch Association of Fundraising Organisations (VFI) issued a Responsible Investment Policy guide for charities. VARA took the findings of its report to the VFI, whose director Gosse Bosma said: “The guide is not mandatory for our members and we do not verify anything as such.” A recent report issued by the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), titled: “Doing good and sharing it”, said that while many fundraising charities and foundations had a responsible investment policy, it was sometimes unclear and its application often limited. The report received responses from 41 charities and foundations. Dutch MP, Neppérus, said that if pension funds could report on their responsible investments, so should charities. Neppérus said that if a public ‘name-and-shame’ policy failed to work within two years, she was prepared to look at the introduction of tighter fiscal rules for charities.
Neppérus is spokesperson for fiscal matters for theVVD party, which is the biggest party of the new coalition government and lead by Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister. She is also vice chairman of the Dutch enquiry commission on the financial crisis, which was initiated on November 16th. Link to VBDO report