The €24bn multi-sector scheme PGB has become the first Dutch pension fund to exclude companies selling firearms to civilians.

As a result of the decision, the scheme said on its website that it would divest its stakes in US supermarket chains Walmart and Kroger.

The decision followed a survey of its members conducted in 2017, which indicated that they didn’t want the scheme to invest in controversial weapons.

Members also indicated that they were concerned about about gun violence at, for example, schools in the US. However, they supported these weapons remaining available to the police and the army.

According to PGB, consultancy firm Sustainalytics had developed a method to screen companies for arms sales to civilians. Its work was prompted by a discussion among US pension funds.

Walmart has already been excluded by several Dutch pension funds, including the €203bn healthcare scheme PFZW. However, this was for violating workers’ rights to unite through union membership.

PGB didn’t identify the two other companies affected by its divestment decision, but said it was also screening arms manufacturers that targeted consumers, and manufacturers of parts for guns and other firearms.

It said that its exclusion policy would also apply to firms whose subsidiaries produced firearms or focused on sales to civilians.

PGB added that it would start divesting its stakes in the companies – all listed in the MSCI index – in the fourth quarter of this year.

Earlier this year, asset managers State Street and BlackRock said they planned to engage with arms manufacturers regarding safety and distribution following a school shooting in Florida in February.