A world where all individuals have full transparency on their pension investments, and voice and choice to demand that those investments do better for the world. If we achieve this, we believe we will see significant amounts of money moving away from harmful, extractive and destructive companies, and into sustainable businesses. This will fuel the Sustainable Development Goals and help us meet a net zero emissions world.
Around 18 million working Britons are currently saving into a pension fund, with overall savings worth £3 trillion alone. That’s trillions of pounds of long-term, patient capital with the specific purpose of investing for our future. These funds are investing in a whole range of things: some that are good for our world, and some that aren’t.
The fact is, that when people save for their retirement, they are often investing in things that don’t align with the kind of world they want to retire into, without even realising it. We want everyone to be empowered to find out what their money is doing for the world, and to change it if they want their money to do better.
Yes! 70% of UK citizens want their investments to be responsible and impactful, but only £2 out of every £10 is invested this way. Younger people are even more engaged – over three-quarters of 18 to 24 year olds believe choosing where you invest your money is one of the best ways to help the planet.
Absolutely! Evidence suggests that members of the public do not consider themselves as investors – with people often viewing their pensions as a long-term savings. This is in spite of the fact that on average, UK citizens contribute £3,500 each into their pensions every year.
We know that switching your pension isn’t always easy. That’s why our campaign isn’t about asking people to switch. Instead it’s about starting a conversation – helping you find out where your money is invested, to see whether it can do better, and push the industry to provide more options for people who want their money to do good.
Yes! Moving your savings to sustainable funds can be 21 times as effective at reducing your carbon footprint than eating less meat, using public transport, reducing water use, and flying less combined. If you want to find out more about moving your own money visit ShareAction.
It’s not just about you, either. It’s about demanding action from government and industry – showing that people care about where their money is going and pushing for long-term change. That’s how we can get billions moving
While each fund is different, we believe that investing in businesses that treat their staff well, have a sustainable business model, and consider their impact on people and planet will be smart investment decisions.
There is also a growing body of evidence that shows sustainable pension funds are as profitable – if not more so – than default funds. NEST, the national pension provider, has invested seven percent of its portfolio in renewables, and its ethical fund is its best performing.
Research has found that European funds marked as sustainable are more likely to be top-performing, with around two-thirds of sustainable funds beating the average fund in their category.
Lots of cities (such as Berlin, London, Oslo and Stockholm) have stopped investing in fossil fuels and none of them have seen a negative impact on performance. In fact, some of them have seen better performance. As seen in the start of 2020, sustainable funds on average have also proved more resilient to external shocks.
Whether it’s called green, ethical, ESG, or sustainable investment – the idea that investments can make the world a better place is gaining traction. British investors put more that £2.7bn into ‘responsible investment’ funds last year, and the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance estimates that global sustainable assets currently stand at over $30tn, more than the annual GDP (gross domestic product) of the United States.
One of the reasons we started this campaign is because it’s difficult for ordinary people to find out what their pensions are invested in and choose the one that aligns with their values. There are a number of sustainable/ethical funds to choose from, but we want to create a world where pensions are sustainable as standard, and where consumers have choice and voice to access these funds.
Terms such as ‘responsible’, ‘sustainable’, and ‘ethical’ investment are often used interchangeably in general conversation as umbrella terms for investments that do good.
However, there are important and specific differences between them.
Socially responsible/ethical investing is based on screening investments on moral grounds to exclude or include certain companies. Sustainable investing considers environmental, social and governance principles under the assumption that companies that adhere to high quality standards in these areas are likely to succeed in the long run both in performance and building a better world. Impact investing focusses on investing in companies that measure and report their impact on society, and aim to deliver a positive impact on the world.
All of these forms of investment have a place in pensions, but it can often be unclear when looking at fund options exactly which of these forms of investment they include, and what the balance is between them. Here’s a helpful guide on the “Spectrum of Capital”.
No, we’re not.
We believe all companies should be working on urgent, credible and measurable plans to get to net-zero carbon emissions. This is especially true for the fossil fuel industry, the leading contributors to global emissions. We believe investors can have a powerful role in catalysing this process, achieving systemic change and a just transition, by engaging with the companies they own. You only need to look at the brilliant work ShareAction has led to show the power of engaging with businesses and using the power of our money to drive real impact.
Where companies are unwilling to tackle the climate emergency and make these essential changes however, we believe divestment is the best option, from both an economic and environmental perspective.
We want pension funds to move away from investment in really destructive things like coal and oil sands, both because of their impact on the environment, and because we don’t think these are smart, long term investments for our changing world.
Yet we also recognise energy companies will play a key role in a low carbon transition. So, where there are companies – such as Orsted in Denmark – that are serious about making this shift, we believe they should be encouraged and pressured to make a transition as quickly and meaningfully as possible.
We understand, too, the need to guard against so-called ‘greenwashing’ – paying lip service to the transition agenda, often by using the language of sustainability, without meaningful, measurable action. If companies refuse to accept the urgency and transformational nature of transition, then it would be right for us to consider divestment as a strategy, so we can instead support the growth and success of companies that are taking real action.
We believe markets must be at the heart of any solution to these global challenges. From finance, to innovation, to collaboration, capital markets have a critical role to play in creating the world we all want to retire into.
However, the current process of capital allocation is not fit for purpose. The system has evolved to place short term profit at the expense of people and planet, creating an unsustainable economic and ecological climate, and damaging long term investment prospects. We believe it can be different, and better. We know change is happening, but it must happen faster, so we can build a world we’re all proud to live in.
Local economies all over the world need investment to build things like affordable housing and develop key industries. Pensions funds can support this by investing in funds that finance these projects. A good example is the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, which invests a proportion in local impact investments, and developing the critical infrastructure required for a thriving economy and a sustainable society.
Pension trustees have an important statutory duty to act in the ‘best interests’ of their members. The term ‘best interests’ is one of continuing inquiry within the sector with a growing belief that it implies the pursuit of more than a purely financial benefit.
Moreover, it’s clear that climate change poses a huge material financial risk, and moving away from unsustainable portfolios is a way to mitigate that risk, as well as a way to make good returns. The green economy is growing at a rapid pace, and working towards the SDGs could open up to $12 trillion of market opportunities by 2030.
We’re calling on all organisations to align their pension with their mission. For the practical steps of how to make your pension sustainable, see Top Tips for Sponsors of Pension Schemes. Our brilliant partners Accounting For Sustainability have created this guide to help employers engage with their trustees on, and talk to their employees about, sustainable investing.