NETHERLANDS - The Dutch Campaign Against Arms Trade (CtW) pressure group has lashed out at claims suggesting pension funds in the Netherlands are radically excluding the weapon industry from their investment portfolios.

The organisation responded to a media storm that followed a report published this week by the Association of Investors in Sustainable Development (VBDO), claiming most of the €435bn money now considered to be responsibly invested excludes weapon manufacturers, as institutional investors are avoiding the arms industry.

"The pension money of Dutch citizens is still being invested in military companies on a large scale, for instance in companies that are involved in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons," said CtW.

The organisation added the policy criteria of pension funds does not indicate this will change in the near future.

The VBDO study published on Tuesday showed the amount of institutional assets undergoing at least one screening, mostly the negative exclusion of weapon manufacturers, has increased from just €47bn in 2005 to €435bn at the end of 2007 (40% of assets).

The report, part of a larger European study conducted by Eurosif, found of the €435bn in assets undergoing negative screenings, €356.6bn were being screened on the exclusion of weapons alone. This is said to represent 36% of the total Dutch assets under management.

After simple screening, about €61bn is invested according to multiple ethical exclusion criteria.

CtW claims its own research revealed none of the surveyed pension funds excluded all weapon manufacturers and the exclusion criteria that VBDO refers to are mostly in relation to the production of very specific, and mostly prohibited weapons, such as landmines and cluster munitions.

"Only a few pension funds have exclusion criteria for the weapon production on a larger scale," said the group. "This proves that the exclusion of military production is possible, without a loss in returns."

CtW advocates an investment policy which excludes manufacturers of landmines, cluster ammunition, nuclear arms and weapons including depleted uranium, as well as companies with a turnover from military production of over 5%.

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