Monday, July 03, 2006

Pensions, fairtrade, cycling training for kids

Aargh! Haven't written anything in ages. V busy week last week with training/meetings every night. Bizarrely, we seem to be getting training now for the things we needed to know 2 months ago, but better late than never I guess.

Pensions Committee: had 2 mtgs in which we received presentations from fund managers about how their funds had performed in the previous quarter. I questioned fund managers about how investments in the arms trade fitted in with a socially responsible investment policy. Lewisham Council's pension scheme has a policy of 'positive engagement' with companies on ethical issues, which means that rather than screening out companies fund managers think are dubious, they invest in them and try to work with them on issues. I had a slightly bizarre conversation with one fund representative who proudly said that they had decided against investing in Nike because of their reputation on sweatshops, but that they were positively engaging with a certain arms manufacturer. Now I'm no big fan of Nike but I can just about see how you could positively engage with them on workers' rights issues, but how do you positively engage with an arms manufacturer (can you make weapons guaranteed not to kill anyone or to be sold to anyone who might use them?!/can you start making solar panels instead please?!)? I would like to see the council pension fund screen out investments in tobacco and arms and will be pushing for this. Top priority must be to maximise returns for pension fund members (and minimise the contribution council tax payers make to the fund), but I don't think profits and ethics need to be mutually exclusive.

Also went to the Fairtrade steering committee meeting with my Oxfam hat on. Lots planned for their stand at Lewisham Peoples' Day this Saturday. When time permits, I would like to do some work on encouraging cash and carries to stock fairtrade goods, which would make it easier for small shops to do the same. Every incentive for people to use small shops instead of supermarkets is good, as far as I'm concerned and I think that lots of people who buy fairtrade might also be inclined to support local shops over supermarkets, if they sold the products they wanted to buy.

Went to Gordonbrock Primary School Fete on Saturday - well-attended event with lots of kids bringing their bikes for Dr Bike to check over. I understand that the rebuilding/repairs work for the school will be on the agenda at the next mayor and cabinet mtg, which I hope to attend. Made the mistake of staying to watch the penalties in the England v Portugal match on Saturday instead of going straight to the joint meeting of the African Families Federation and various local trade justice groups. Went for the last hour and there seemed to be lots of enthusiasm for different groups to work together and it was much more inspiring than the football!

Glad to see the government has put some extra money into cycling training for kids.

No comments: