Many public bodies, including NHS trusts, churches, local authorities, universities, trade unions and charities, invest in the arms trade, despite their commitment to beneficial and ethical goals, according to a recent report by Campaign Against the Arms Trade. They include Cancer Research UK, Mencap, the Co-operative Insurance Society, British Coal Pension Fund, and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It is unlikely that donors to these charities expect their money to be invested in this way, or nurses and lecturers expect their pension fund to hold hundreds of thousands of shares in arms exporting companies.

Local authorities also hold arms company shares, while claiming to have ethical investment policies. Amongst them are Essex, Durham, North Yorkshire, and East and West Sussex county councils and the London boroughs of Bexley, Camden, Haringey, Tower Hamlets, Havering and Sutton, as well as Strathclyde pension fund.

The report concentrates on bodies investing in seven of the biggest British arms companies: BAE Systems, Alvis, Cobham, GKN, Rolls Royce - which also makes a wide range of civil products, including engines for passenger aircraft and cars - the Smiths group and VT Group (formerly Vosper Thorneycroft), which builds ships.

Today many investors present themselves as having an ethical investment policy while holding large numbers of shares in big arms exporters. These include the Corporation of London, Greater Manchester pension fund, London borough of Brent in north London and Maudsley NHS trust, the Boys Brigade, Church of England Funds, St Hilda's College, Oxford, the Universities' superannuation scheme, Dundee University pension fund, Glasgow University endowment fund, Liverpool University endowment fund, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union general fund, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers staff pension fund, the British Steel pension funds and the Nurses pension fund.