By Aislinn Lambert, Digital Campaigns Assistant, ShareAction 

3 December 2015

USS – the Universities Superannuation Scheme – is the UK’s largest occupational pension scheme. It is the principal pension scheme provided by universities and other higher education institutions in the UK, with 330,000 members across 400 institutions.

The USS: Step Up campaign is run by USS members, supported by both ShareAction and the University and College Union (UCU). Almost 4,000 USS members so far have asked the scheme to take members’ views into account when investing their savings, especially when investing in stocks that fund controversial weapons and climate change.

Today, employee representatives from universities and institutions from across the UK met with USS executives to discuss the scheme’s plans for the year ahead. USS members are not able to attend this meeting, so ShareAction surveyed supporters of the USS: Step Up campaign about the issues they want raised in this meeting. A crew of USS members went along to stand outside the meeting and handed these comments to those attending, asking them to raise them once inside.

Five key themes emerged from the responses.

Accountability:

Many members highlight that since it is their money that allows USS to exist, they have a right to have their voices heard in decisions about how it is invested

It’s our money, we should have a say!” – Maurice

“It is my money!  No ‘taxation’ without representation” – Peter, Cardiff University

“We are the people the USS is supposed to serve and those who fund it.” – Rajmil, Keele University  

Professional Interests:

USS members work in Higher Education, and many are frustrated at the way their money is being used in ways that contradict the ethos of their profession and the content of their teachings.

“Universities exist for the betterment of humanity. We cannot profess to spread light while profiting from the shadows.” – Ian, Lancaster University

“Members of USS have spent their lives investing in teaching and research.”– Susan, Sheffield University

“My University research and work is dedicated to improving health and lives; I don’t want my money invested in the weapons trade.” – Isobel, Aberdeen University

Arms Trade:

Many USS members expressed specific concerns about their investments fuelling the violence and destruction associated with the arms trade.

“Investing in arms companies is fuelling war.” – Rukhsana, The Open University

“I am trapped in a pension fund that is complicit with organised murder. I demand to be heard when I object to this.” – Audrey, formerly Warwick University

“Members should have a right to decide whether their pension is funded by spilling blood elsewhere in the world.” – Marc, Cardiff University

Climate Change:

The contribution of their pension savings to the existential threat of climate change is also clearly a huge issue for USS members, who don’t want their pension savings to contribute to disastrous global warming.

Climate Change is the biggest threat to humanity. I would like to know that USS investments are not making it worse!” – Fiona, Cambridge University

“Unless action is taken on climate change we won’t get a retirement to enjoy! Stop investing in the destruction of the planet.” – John, University of London

“Amongst all the serious issues facing the world at the moment there is no doubt in my mind that climate change is the most serious.” – Thomas, formerly University of London

Investing for the long-term:

Last but not least, many members highlighted that pensions are long-term investments. USS should think about this, and not just short-term profitability, when investing their money!

“Global warming, which is caused by CO2 emissions, will destroy the economic basis on which my pension will be generated.” – Edward, Essex University

“We need our funds out of fossil fuels, not only for climate change reasons but ‘cos those investments are increasingly precarious.” – Jon, Loughborough University

“Any long term investment needs to take account of the effects of that investment on the planet and its people.” – Rhonda

Thanks Ash! Get in touch with us here if you want to find out more about the USS: Step Up campaign.