The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Stefanie Spear:,

401(k) Funds Funnel Billions Into Nuclear Weapons, Cluster Munitions, and Other Controversial Weapons

Berkeley, CA

A new analysis from As You Sow has found that the largest U.S. mutual fund managers, responsible for funds found across thousands of corporate 401(k) plans, have significant investments in nuclear and other controversial weapons like white phosphorus and cluster bombs.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently stated that the world has entered “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War,” driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and recent nuclear threats, prompting investors to reevaluate their investments in companies profiting from nuclear weapons and global conflict.

The U.S. recently announced it is planning to deliver cluster munitions to Ukraine, sparking outcry among NGOs and prompting investor concerns about profiting from these controversial weapons. While nations have the right to the legitimate use of weapons for self-defense and national security, having investor-owned arms manufacturers in retirement plans puts people in the position of profiting from this bloodshed.

“Many investors, given a choice, would not want to profit from companies that manufacture weapons of mass destruction,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Yet nearly every retirement plan has nuclear and other controversial weapons embedded in their plan. Our new ratings empower investors with the tools to know what they own so they can invest their money in alignment with their values.”

As You Sow’s analysis looks at hundreds of mutual fund managers, with a focus on comparing the top 25 largest firms to the 25 largest sustainable fund managers. Fund managers commonly found in corporate 401(k)s like American Funds, John Hancock Funds, and Franklin Templeton Investments were among the most exposed among the largest fund managers. All of the 25 largest managers earned a “D” grade or lower; all but two of the sustainable fund managers earned a “C” grade or higher, with almost one-third of the sustainable firms earning an “A” grade with no identifiable exposure to military weapons.

Concerns about the social impact, human rights, reputation risk, and regulatory risks are just a few of the reasons weapon-free investing has been a common component of sustainable investing for decades. These risks are amplified when companies are involved with nuclear weapons and controversial weapons like cluster munitions, anti-personnel landmines, incendiary weapons, and depleted uranium. Sustainable investing has traditionally avoided weapon investments not only for moral reasons, but with the goal of avoiding the financial risk inherent in the business models of arms manufacturers. Research shows that sustainable indexes that screen out nuclear weapons largely track or outperform comparable non-sustainable indexes.

The new Fund Manager Military Weapon Ratings are the latest addition to As You Sow’s Weapon Free Funds investment tool, built to help responsible investors prioritize peace and people over war and violence. The ratings use research from non-profits and ethical investment firms to identify investor-owned companies involved with arms manufacturing, nuclear weapons, and cluster munitions, then cross-reference this with the holdings of thousands of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. The tool includes a toolkit people can use to help shift their investments, including their company 401(k) savings, away from weapon investments.

Weapon Free Funds is one of As You Sow’s Invest Your Values online tools, which also includes Fossil Free Funds, Deforestation Free Funds, Gender Equality Funds, Gun Free Funds, Prison Free Funds, Tobacco Free Funds, and the Retirement Plan Sustainability Scorecard.

As You Sow is the nation's non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. Founded in 1992, we harness shareholder power to create lasting change that benefits people, planet, and profit. Our mission is to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.