The OPSEU Pension Trust is divesting from all equity and fixed-income investments in public companies that derive a majority of their revenue from the production or manufacture of tobacco products beginning in 2018.

“At OPTrust, we prefer to use corporate engagement — the promotion of better business practices — in our investment and ownership practices,” said Hugh O’Reilly, president and chief executive office of OPTrust. “However, there is no such thing as a safe level of consumption of tobacco products. They cause only harm. As a result, investments in tobacco do not align with our responsible investing principles.”

The divestment is part of OPTrust’s focus on environmental, social and governance factors as key drivers of sustainable, long-term investment. It comes a month after Keith Ambachtsheer, director emeritus of the International Centre for Pension Management, penned a letter urging pension funds and other organizations to seriously consider zero tobacco exposure in their investment portfolios.

“I’m thrilled to hear that OPTrust is implementing a tobacco-free investment policy,” said Dr. Bronwyn King, a radiation oncologist and chief executive officer of Tobacco Free Portfolios. “This sets a new standard among Canadian financial institutions and will inspire others to follow suit.

“As an oncologist, I’m fully aware of the devastating impact of tobacco. It’s heartening to see OPTrust take such a positive step, joining with the health and government sectors to address one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.”

In other investment news, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec’s real estate subsidiary, Ivanhoé Cambridge, alongside the Blackstone Group, is implementing a private multi-family residential rooftop solar project in the United States.

The project is a 3.8-megawatt solar energy system that will span across the property’s nine hectares of rooftops in Manhattan.

The installation will consist of 9,671 high-efficiency solar panels and will generate enough energy to power more than 1,000 New York City apartments annually.

“Working to make communities more sustainable underpins many of our business decisions,” said Daniel Fournier, chairman and chief executive officer of Ivanhoé Cambridge.

The multi-family building has a number of other sustainable features, including LED lighting, high-efficiency hot water heat exchangers, elevator shaft louvers to minimize heat loss and domestic water flow control valves. It also incorporates the use of a centralized building management system to control steam heating distribution.

It’s the largest rental apartment complex in the United States, with more than 11,200 multi-family units in 56 buildings located in Manhattan’s East Village.