Swedish government ministers are investing their personal finances in companies at odds with their own political policies, a new Fair Finance Guide Sweden assessment reveals.
In Sweden, transparency regulations require politicians to disclose their private savings, in order to prevent hidden conflicts of interests. With this information Fair Finance Guide Sweden could review Swedish government ministers’ savings to assess how well their investments align with their political policies.
The findings are striking, with several examples where investments contradict ministers’ own political lines. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who has been very critical towards the privatization of schools, has savings in investment funds which invest in the largest listed private schools company Academedia. Meanwhile the Green party leader’s portfolio includes big oil companies like Exxon and Shell. And it transpires that the minister responsible for regulating the gambling industry, who has been very critical of the industry’s aggressive marketing tactics that risk addiction, is investing in online casino companies.
“This shows just how difficult it is to make an informed choice when selecting investment funds,” says Jakob König, of Fair Finance Guide Sweden, “Most people rely on information and advice provided by their bank or pension fund on whether their investments are sustainable, but it is quite complicated to verify this information when you are not familiar with investment operations. It's a bit like going to the dentist and questioning their advice – it’s difficult to do if you are not a dentist yourself!”
The review also found that many ministers have selected investments funds that claim to take sustainability into particular consideration when investing. Yet, many of these funds are financing numerous unsustainable business activities were found, such as oil companies drilling in the Arctic and businesses causing deforestation in the Amazon.
“As a rule of thumb; when you choose a fund that claims to be sustainable, don’t expect it to be completely ‘green’, it’s more likely that at best it is somewhat ‘green’,” Jakob says.
The findings came as a shock to many of the ministers, and several of them responded that they will change their funds including the Swedish Prime Minister, whose press secretary was quoted as saying "With this information, the Prime Minister will make changes to his fund holdings."
Overall the report highlights two key issues with the investment funds that many citizens are linked to via their pension fund or bank. Firstly there is a lack of transparency on how and where funding is invested, and secondly so-called sustainable funds are often only partially so, with many harmful businesses also included in the mix. With increased visibility of the issue there is a hope that the political and institutional will to address it will follow.
The media coverage of this report (in Swedish) can be viewed here.