Is excluding war companies the ethical thing to do?

ESG investing is a complicated area with many ethical dilemmas and difficult decisions to be made. 

Companies that manufacture goods for war present one such dilemma as the current Russia Ukraine conflict has bought into light. On one hand, listed stocks that manufacture weapons create products that literally kill people. On the other hand, without those manufacturers, the Ukraine would be over-run already.  Many countries will be left vulnerable if all investment in defence ceased.

Ethical investing is about you

For most funds in the ESG investing space, you have to prescribe to a fund manager’s ESG philosophy. More often than not they just exclude all stocks to do with war, with no nuance. However, this may not be the best approach or one that is right for you. 

Nucleus Wealth allows investors to tailor your portfolio so it aligns with your ethical values and beliefs and doesn’t have the “one size fits all” approach to ethics. 

Ethical ESG investing war weapons

Nucleus Wealth has a number of categories within each ethical screen to make the decision easier. For example, many choose to exclude the “War Worst Offenders” and “Nuclear Weapons”. This removes companies known to produce nuclear weapons, cluster munitions and landmines but leave the rest of the war stocks in the portfolio that are more aligned with defence. This would mean they own stocks like Boeing, but exclude stocks like Honeywell.  

One of our holdings is L3Harris, a US defence contractor that specializes in surveillance solutions, microwave weaponry, and electronic warfare. We expect it to continue to grow as Europe confronts Russia. For some investors, they don’t want to own L3Harris, regardless of the outlook. For others, it is an acceptable investment. We can understand and accommodate both points of view. 

Let me be clear, I am not promoting investing in war. However, I am raising the point that not all manufacturers of weapons are part of an evil industrial-military complex and you should choose what to include and what to exclude in your portfolio. Unfortunately, war is still an aspect of life and excluding every defence stock and making funding difficult for this industry is not going to solve the problem.  

Nucleus Wealth’s ethical choices regarding War

No Arms – Worst Offenders. This removes companies that are known to produce cluster munitions and landmines

No Arms – Any. This removes companies that are known to directly produce weapons or ammunition

No Nuclear weapons. This removes companies that are known to be involved in the production of nuclear weapons 

The problem with many ethical funds

The problem with many ethical funds is that they treat the world as black or white, with nothing in between. 

It is easy to take the moral high ground of an ESG manager and exclude everything to do with War but often there is more to the situation as discussed. We have a number of investors currently rethinking this position and considering whether to include some stocks that are involved in defence.

Nucleus Wealth has many investors who want to exclude gambling but include tobacco. And many that want the exact opposite. Others want to exclude oil and coal stocks but do want to own fast food companies. The majority of ethical funds don’t give you these options or the ability to customise your portfolio to align to your preferences. Many questionable sectors are either all in or are all out. I think investors deserve better options and deserve to choose how their money is invested.

Nucleus Wealth’s unique offering

We have around 50 ethical, sector and asset class screens that allow you to customise your portfolio based on your values and beliefs, plus the ability to create specific custom screens. Our screens can be utilised across all of our active and passive portfolios and please see the link here to our portfolios page so you can view all our different offerings that you can apply the numerous screens too. Please log into our no-obligation onboarding portal to see more detailed information about each of our screens.

If you would like to discuss investing with Nucleus Wealth or any of these ethical issues please book a call with me and I would be happy to chat and explain things in more detail.