Industrial Livestock Divestment: A Guide to communicating with councillors
You are likely to get three types of response, here is a guide on how to reply to them.
1. Positive responses, e.g. “I agree with you, and I will follow this up”
You might get a positive response from your councillor – saying they agree with you that the council’s pension fund should divest and/or that they’ll take follow up action. Brilliant! This is a great sign. Here’s an example of an email to help move things forward, which you can use/adapt:
Thank you so much for getting back to me – I appreciate you following up on this important issue. Feedback and World Animal Protection are gathering the names of councillors who support industrial livestock divestment, to facilitate cooperation with and between supportive councillors – would you be happy to sign up to show your support? If so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and they can add you to the list.
You can see a breakdown of which industrial livestock companies your local authority pension fund is invested in – just email email@example.com to have this sent to you.
Divestment sends a clear message to governments that they are responsible for limiting emissions from industrial livestock companies. Direct investments in industrial livestock companies can be easily divested from immediately (shares or bonds) or when they come up for renewal (bonds only). For indirect investments, divestment can be a longer and more complex process (e.g. 3-5 years), so it is important for local authorities to start this process as soon as possible. Pension funds are already beginning to commit to go fossil free in this way, so it can be done. Whether your Pension Fund Committee has a passively or actively managed fund, it is possible to divest – see the section ‘How to Divest’ on p11 of this Briefing for Councillors for more info.
For further help and advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks again for engaging on this important issue.
2. Denial of power or responsibility, e.g. “I have no power to change our pension fund’s investment decisions”
A common response from councillors is that they do not have power to influence the decisions of their local authority’s Pension Fund Committee, which ultimately has the decision-making power over divestment. But councillors may not be aware of the action they can take (or in some cases, might just want to avoid responsibility!).
Politely explain to councillors the ways their actions can make a difference – here’s an example email, feel free to use/adapt it depending on your councillor’s message and situation:
I empathise with the fact that you do not have direct power to ensure the local authority pension fund divests from industrial livestock and understand that it may take time to get the Pension Fund Committee on board with this. However, there are several valuable ways you could use your indirect influence as a councillor to put pressure on the Pension Fund Committee to divest.
For example, you could contact your council’s representatives on the Pension Fund Committee to mobilise their support for divestment, and/or put me in touch with them.
Another option is to submit a motion to full council calling on the Committee to divest the pension fund from industrial livestock, which could optionally be combined with a fossil fuel divestment motion.
Will you take these actions? You can contact email@example.com who can provide you with support and provide a detailed breakdown of your local authority pension fund’s investments in industrial livestock.
If you are already advocating for divestment from other high-emissions investments like fossil fuels, thank you. The actions above would be useful ways to build on your important efforts.
3. Saying they prefer engagement to divestment, e.g. “We have an engagement strategy with companies, and divestment would mean we lose influence on them”
Some local authorities are currently wedded to the belief that by holding investments in polluting companies, they can exert pressure on them to reform for the better through investor engagement. However, this is a dead end for several reasons. Here’s a suggested email response – feel free to use/adapt it:
Thank you for your reply. It is good to hear that our local authority pension fund is concerned by the negative environmental and social impact of the companies it invests in. However, engagement is a misguided strategy and urge you to switch to a divestment approach for the following reasons:
Firstly, many local authority pension fund investments in industrial livestock companies are in the form of bonds. Bond holders do not have any say over how the company is run, so divestment is the only way investors can express disapproval of a company’s sustainability.
In the case of shares, most industrial livestock companies are “closely held”, which means the majority of the company’s shares are owned by a few individuals, not publicly traded – so minority shareholders, even collectively, can have limited influence.
Finally, industrial livestock companies show no sign of being capable of reform in the timescales needed to avert climate crisis. Their core business is inherently unsustainable, and they would face huge financial losses were their industry to be regulated. All of the world’s 35 largest industrial livestock companies are pushing for growth in production and exports. Any engagement is better targeted at retailers and caterers who can switch procurement practices to less and better meat.
In light of this, I would be grateful if you could put pressure on the Pension Fund Committee to reconsider its approach, and opt for divestment from industrial livestock companies rather than ineffective engagement.
You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and support, including a detailed breakdown of your local authority pension fund’s investments in industrial livestock companies.