Risky Returns: Fewer Long Term Investments in Nuclear Weapons Producers, New Report Finds

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By ICAN, December 16, 2022

Fewer long-term investments were made in the companies behind the nuclear weapons industry, according to the Don’t Bank on the Bomb report, published today by PAX and ICAN. The report found a $45.9 billion drop in long-term investments in 2022, including loans and underwriting.

The report “Risky Returns”  provides an overview of investments in 24 companies heavily involved in the production of nuclear weapons for the arsenals of China, France, India, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States in 2022. Overall, the report finds that 306 financial institutions made over $746 billion available to these companies, in loans, underwriting, shares or bonds. US-based Vanguard remains the largest single investor, with $68,180 million invested in the nuclear weapon industry.

While the total value of investments in the 24 nuclear weapon producers was higher than previous years, this is also attributed to share price variances through a turbulent year in the defence sector. Some nuclear weapon producers also produce conventional weapons and saw their stock values rise, likely resulting from the announcements by NATO states that they would significantly increase defence spending. Yet the report found no increase in the number of investors in the nuclear weapon producers.

The report also found a $45.9 billion drop in 2022 in long-term investments, including loans and underwriting. This could signal that a growing number of long-term investors do not see nuclear weapon production as a sustainable growth market and regard the companies involved as an avoidable risk. It also reflects the changes in the legal context: Increasingly, mandatory due diligence legislation in Europe, and the anticipation of such laws, is raising questions around investments in arms producers.

This long-term trend shows the growing stigma attached to nuclear weapons is having an effect. As ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said “The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – the TPNW – that came into force in 2021 has made these weapons of mass destruction illegal under international law. Involvement in producing nuclear weapons is bad for business, and the long-term impact on human rights and the environment of these companies’ activities is making them a riskier investment.”  

Yet in a year marked by heightened global tensions and fears of nuclear escalation, more investors should send a clear signal to the world that nuclear weapons are unacceptable and end their relationship with these companies. Alejandra Muñoz, from the No Nukes project at PAX, and co-author of the report, said: “Banks, pension funds and other financial institutions that keep investing in nuclear weapon producers enable these companies to continue their involvement in the development and production of weapons of mass destruction. The financial sector can and should play a role in ongoing efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in society.”

The Executive Summary can be found here and the full report can be read here.

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