Global tobacco investments – the fight for tobacco-free pension funds

Global tobacco investments – the fight for tobacco-free pension funds

“Most of the global finance sector is investing in tobacco. It is necessary to create partnerships across sectors.” On 2 March 2017, Dr Bronwyn King and Dr Rachel Melsom of Tobacco Free Portfolios presented the implications and dangers of the global investment in tobacco and possible ways to fight against it. The event took place at the Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen.

As the world’s number one cause of preventable death, accountable for 6 million deaths per year globally,[1] there is an intrinsic need for discussing the responsibility of supporting the tobacco industry and a momentum for acting to restrict investments in tobacco, Dr King said. She noted that tobacco differs from any other product in a number of ways.

1) It cannot be consumed safely at any level.

2) Tobacco is covered by the world’s first global legally binding public health treaty, the WHO FCTC.

3) Any engagement with the industry is futile, since cease of production is the only acceptable solution.


“Where there has been engagement, it has invariably been counterproductive”.

Professor Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, Australia.

Implementation of the FCTC Article 5.3

The WHO FCTC signed by 180 Parties across the world includes several provisions on the engagement with the tobacco industry. Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC state that Governments are required not to invest in the tobacco industry.[2] Only four Parties to the WHO FCTC have currently implemented this part of the Treaty, including Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway. In Australia, 50% of pension funds are now free of tobacco industry investments.

13 of 17 UN SDGs affected by tobacco

Investment in tobacco is associated with a number of breaches on human rights. An estimated 33 million people are engaged in tobacco farming worldwide and 60% are children, often subject to exploitation and bonded labour. Tobacco farmers are exposed to significant health risks from working with tobacco as well as unacceptable working conditions. With high influence on health, poverty and education, Dr King noted that tobacco impacts 13 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. She highlighted that better tobacco control is key to achieving these goals.[3]

Start making the conversations

“The solutions are there, we just need to start the conversations.” Dr King noted and recommended health actors to connect with local and national companies to push for change. Health care, governmental and financial actors must collaborate to move the subject ahead and start making responsible investments.

Tobacco Free Portfolios aims to eliminate tobacco from investment portfolios globally. Dr King and her colleagues engage with the financial sector to encourage tobacco-free investment and align the finance sector with health, governments and the non-governmental community.

For more information see





[2] Recommendations 4.7 and 7.2, Guidelines for implementation of Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

[3] How to take ‘fctc implementation’ from the sustainable development goals (sdgs) and translate it into action in-country

Submitted by: Andrea Glahn, 3 March 2017