An investigation by the i newspaper found that, as of last year, the pension fund had invested £1.56m in DuPont, Dow and Dow Chemical, a major manufacturer of ‘forever chemicals’ PFAS that the EA has said are “ubiquitous in the environment”.
It also holds shares in German agrochemicals giant Bayer, which produces neonicotinoid pesticides banned in the EU and UK and the glyphosate-based weedkiller RoundUp, and US-based company Corteva, the investigation found.
In response, an EA spokesperson told the paper that the shares represented just 0.07% of the total portfolio. “All but one of these investments are also in our MSCI World Low Carbon portfolio, which tilts towards supporting businesses committed to reducing their carbon footprint.
“We have an excellent track record of investing in assets which deliver for our natural environment, wider society and employees – with the United Nations recognising us as a global leader in responsible investment,” the spokesperson added.
But green groups were left unconvinced. “At best there is a distinct double standard and at worst a serious conflict of interest,” Nick Mole, policy officer at the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, told the paper.
“The main purpose of the EA is to protect the environment with a key focus on stopping pollution,” he said. “For them to be invested in companies that produce some of the most pernicious environmental pollutants is simply outrageous. PAN UK is calling on the EA to divest its pension portfolios of all connections to the pesticide industry.”