The €9.8bn French public sector pension scheme Ircantec is pulling out of the tobacco industry, a decision affecting some €20m of investments.

Jean-Pierre Costes, president of Ircantec’s board of directors, told IPE that it made the decision for several reasons, including recommendations from the World Health Organisation, the use of child labour, and the development of disease. The decision was finalised in December.

Laetitia Tankwe, adviser to Ircantec’s president, added that the scheme decided that investing in the tobacco industry went against well-known and credible international standards.

Ircantec is a pay-as-you-go scheme but has €9.8bn of reserves that it manages according to socially responsible investment principles. Its approach is guided by a desire for its investments to be aligned as much as possible with its values, at the heart of which it has placed inter-generational solidarity.

It has already implemented exclusion policies in the past, such as with respect to coal, and has also taken action aimed more deliberately at achieving positive outcomes. Late last year it announced an energy poverty initiative.

This week it announced an investment of €2.5m in a renewable energy fund, EnRcit. Caisse des Dépôts, the French state development fund and a manager of French retirement schemes such as Ircantec, and Crédit Coopératif, a French bank, also allocated to the fund, taking it to €10m. It aims to support renewable energy projects launched by citizens and local or regional authorities.

Ircantec’s divestment from tobacco comes as other institutional investors have decided to turn their back on the industry. Earlier this month Europe’s largest pension fund, €405bn Dutch civil service scheme ABP, announced that it would divest its entire holdings in tobacco and nuclear weapons – worth an estimated €3.3bn – following extensive consultation. In October 2017 the €25bn Dutch industry-wide pension fund PGB announced that it would no longer invest in tobacco.

2017-2020 objectives

In December, after a negotiation lasting several months, a majority of the Ircantec board agreed and adopted a new “objectives and management agreement”. It determines the scheme’s strategy, objectives and resources for the period 2017-2020.

This is a period in which retirement activity is anticipated to increase by 40%, including as a result of local elections in 2020. Ircantec is the compulsory supplementary pension scheme for non-state employees and public authorities as well as for local elected officials.

The new agreement predicted a 3% reduction in Ircantec’s headcount, and a 4% reduction in administrative management costs, excluding staff costs.

According to a statement from Ircantec, the agreement also set out strong objectives for Caisse des Dépôts, which manages Ircantec. The objectives related to the quality of its service, its development of digital services, and its increased involvement in the partnership between France’s mandatory regimes, for example projects led by Union Retraite, which brings together France’s mandatory pension schemes and coordinates projects designed to improve the relationship between schemes and beneficiaries. 

At the end of last year Ircantec also adopted a shareholder and institutional engagement policy with three priorities: human rights in business, including respect for trade union rights; the ecological and energy transition; and corporate tax liability.