Major Belgian Bank KBC announced today that it will no longer invest in nuclear weapon producers. In a press release the Bank explicitly referred to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as the basis for its decision to exclude nuclear weapon producers: “From now on, the Policy on Arms-Related Activities will also regard nuclear weapons as controversial weapons. Companies involved in the production or development of nuclear weapons will therefore be excluded from all KBC group activities. KBC is thereby following the line of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was endorsed by 122 countries on 7 June last year.”
The former KBC policy had significant loopholes and did not exclude all nuclear weapon producers. The latest “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report published March this year still showed KBC provided a loan of US$45 million to British nuclear weapon producer Serco.
The move comes after years of sustained pressure from ICAN campaigners on KBC. Willem Staes (Pax Christi Vlaanderen) and Pieter Teirlinck (Vrede vzw) of the Belgian coalition against nuclear weapons: “This is the Treaty in action. In less than 11 months, the Treaty has achieved more than Belgian nuclear diplomacy has in years. It is up to other banks and the Belgian government to follow the example of KBC and take a clear stance against nuclear weapons”.
Earlier this year, the largest Dutch pension fund also decided to exclude nuclear weapon producers from investment, and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund excluded a range of companies because of involvement in nuclear weapons. German Deutsche Bank also expanded its exclusion of nuclear weapon producers.
Maaike Beenes, co-author of the Don’t Bank on the Bomb report, commented: “With this decision, KBC clearly recognizes nuclear weapon producers are not an acceptable investment anymore. It sets a strong example for other financial institutions, especially those from countries that, like Belgium, have not joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons yet”.
The Policy does still make an exception for some investments. PAX and ICAN campaigners in Belgium look forward to engaging with KBC on the policy.