Frequently asked questions about the exclusion of Israeli banks

​PGGM has received questions about its decision to exclude a number of Israeli banks from investment. We want to be transparent about how we deal with these questions.

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Is this a boycott by PGGM?
No. This is not a boycott of Israel. In the investment portfolio of PGGM about 100 million euros is still invested including both listed and private equity in almost a hundred Israeli companies. At no stage during the period of years in which PGGM sought dialogue with the five Israeli banks has a ‘boycott’ ever been our objective, or been considered. As an ‘active shareholder’ PGGM seeks dialogue with companies when they do not conduct themselves according to the standards we set for responsible investment. We pursue this dialogue for as long as a prospect of improvement of the conduct of the business in question remains. If the dialogue ultimately proves fruitless, we may proceed to exclusion. Exclusion, however, is not an end in itself.

Is it PGGM's intention to give a political message with this exclusion of Israeli banks?
No. This decision is PGGM’s way of showing that compliance with international treaties by the businesses we invest in for our clients is of great importance to us as a responsible investor. On previous occasions where we have instituted exclusions this has also been pertinent, and we consider it important for the effectiveness of the dialogue we have with businesses in which we invest on our clients' behalf.

Is PGGM's policy regarding responsible investment only directed at the activities of Israeli businesses?
No. PGGM is in dialogue with a large number of businesses around the world regarding a great many topics, including human rights, environmental pollution and corruption.

Does PGGM also seek a dialogue with companies about their activities in other conflict-affected areas? Can this lead to exclusion?
Yes, PGGM is in dialogue with companies about their activities in other conflict-affected areas. In 2009 we were actively involved in drafting concrete guidelines for companies that have activities in (post-)conflict-affected areas. These guidelines ('Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas') offer guidance to companies on how to decrease any negative impact of their activities and to deliver any positive contribution to sustainable peace and development in conflict-affected areas. We are also in a dialogue with Chinese companies. In 2008 we excluded a Chinese oil company, PetroChina, because of their activities in Sudan (a conflict-affected area). Only after intensive dialogue PGGM may decide to exclude.

Has PGGM excluded companies from other countries?
Yes, unfortunately PGGM is occasionally forced to implement an exclusion if dialogue with a company proves unsuccessful. In 2013, for example, Walmart and tobacco producers were excluded. The criteria for exclusion could be ecological misconduct or systematic infringement of labour laws or bad management. Human rights violations might also be a reason for exclusion. The exact criteria can be found here. A current list of companies excluded by PGGM can also be found here. The reasons for the exclusions are also given.

Was the fact that other Dutch companies have withdrawn from Israel a reason for PGGM’s decision to exclude?
No, the decision-making process leading to PGGM’s exclusion of the five banks does not bear any relation to steps by other Dutch companies. PGGM took this decision in the third quarter of 2013 and it was added to the company’s exclusion list which was published on 1 January 2014. This list will next be updated on 1 July 2014. The dialogue with the Israeli banks lasted a couple of years, and PGGM made its decisions strictly independently at every stage.

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