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€44bn Finnish pension fund signs up to Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge

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Varma has become the first Finnish pension provider to sign up to the international Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge.

The company, one of Finland’s top two pension insurers with €44bn in total assets, said that it had signed up to the United Nations-backed project along with Finnish retail bank S-Bank.

The new signatories mean 107 entities have now backed the international project since it was launched in September 2018. European investors including AP4, FRR and Church Commissioners for England signed up at its launch.

The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge aims to raise awareness among financial institutions of the “essential” role they play in promoting anti-tobacco policies in the sector.

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Varma’s director of responsible investment Hanna Kaskela said tobacco also exacerbated poverty.

“There is very little anti-tobacco regulation in developing countries,” she said. “Low-income consumers in developing countries spend a significant proportion of their meagre income on cigarettes, on top of which they suffer tobacco-related illnesses.”

Companies signed up to the pledge promise to take on tobacco-free finance policies such as building knowledge and understanding around the dangers of tobacco, and reducing investment in the industry.

Rachel Melsom, director of Tobacco-Free Finance in the UK and Europe, said the addition of Varma and S-Bank brought the total assets under management represented by the signatories to more than €8.3trn.

This showed tobacco-free finance was becoming increasingly common and important worldwide, she added.

Other European asset owners have been divesting from tobacco stocks in recent months, including Sweden’s AP1 and ABP in the Netherlands.

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