Friday, June 23, 2023

"No, Arms Dealers Don’t Count as “Environmentally and Socially Responsible” Investments"

What a time to be alive.

From Jacobin Magazine, June 8, 2023:

Arms industries across Europe and North America are trying to get credentialed as “ESG”-friendly options for environmentally and socially conscious investors. That’s absurd. As long as their products are used to perpetuate war, they will remain sin stocks.

Military sectors are ramping up efforts to “green” warfare. To support the rebranding of the military as a “driver of climate action,” arms industries from Europe to North America are demanding recognition as ESG-friendly sustainable investment options. That is: environmentally and socially responsible businesses. Arms industries bring security, we are told. And security is a precondition for “any sustainability.”

What hides in this statement? What is lost as we allow military actors to monopolize the meaning of a sustainable future? Unless we want to see the real definitions of both security and sustainable practices silenced — those needed to actually address climate and social crises — military investments must remain “sin stocks.”

Monetizing and Militarizing Sustainability

We live in a time of compounding environmental and social crises, from climate change to armed conflict to systemic human rights violations. As a result, financial investments in arms — the means of death and destruction exacerbating such crises — have acquired an increasingly bad aftertaste for investors with a concern for environmental and social sustainability. At present, this trend is facing a dangerous U-turn as weapons lobbies are putting minds, money, and manpower to co-opting sustainability in theory and practice.

This is made painfully clear by the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, who define military security as intrinsic to sustainability. “Security is the precondition for any sustainability,” they write. Through “helping to ensure security,” the argument then goes, the European arms industry “de facto makes a vital contribution to a more sustainable world.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given this narrative wings. One month into the war, Swedish bank SEB backtracked on its celebrated blanket ban against weapons investments to include parts of the arms industry in their brand-new sustainable investment policy. Similarly, in March 2022, Citibank noted that “We believe defence is likely to be increasingly seen as a necessity that facilitates ESG as an enterprise, as well as maintaining peace, stability and other social goods” — foreboding the growing acceptance of military sectors’ “ESG credentials.” The signal rings clear: with the return of total war to Europe, investing in arms and dual-use systems is our only hope to protect democracy and so achieve sustainability.

What we are witnessing is a concerted effort across European and North American state, finance, and military sectors to cement the link between the arms industry and sustainability, through naturalizing military security as intrinsically linked to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Particularly Goal 16: “Peace, justice and strong institutions.” So far so good — that is, in a world where militarized forms of security are so normalized that we accept the arms industry’s usage of the terms at face value. Few stop to ask, what kind of security is invoked here? Unless we ask this, we will fail to apprehend what kind of sustainability military industries can guarantee.....


Yes, we too have looked at the issue, and with an eye so jaundiced there were concerns about liver failure:

"Windfalls await investors in ammunition"
And with their inclusion in many ESG funds,* this is the best of all possible worlds.

*It Must Be Tough Being A Satirist These Days
With a Russian invasion right on its doorstep, Europe now finds itself discussing whether weapons should be listed as ESG assets, to grant them more favorable access to financing...
ESG Fund Bets Big on Weapons and Beats 98% of Peers
Meanwhile, the Vanguard ESG U.S. Stock ETF does have major military contractors in the portfolio but draws the line at cluster bombs and nuclear weapons....