Pension savers urged to check whether their scheme is ethical | Personal Finance | Finance


For many employees, pension contributions will automatically be made each month. As such, it’s not necessarily something all individuals will pay regular attention to, perhaps instead waiting until they near the time of life they want to retire to give it the most thought.

Lisa Stanley is a co-founder of the website, and recently spoke exclusively to about the matter.

First of all, she addressed how likely it is that an individual’s pension isn’t ethical.

“There’s every likelihood that your (work) pension isn’t invested in an ethical or sustainable fund,” she explained. “Thankfully that will soon start to change.

“As of October last year (2019), pension schemes have been required to consider whether the financial impact of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors might affect their members’ pension investments.

“Pension scheme trustees have had to set out, in their Statement of Investment Principles (SIP), their policy on how they take account of financially material factors, including ESG considerations and climate change, in their investment decision making.

“From October 1 2020, this statement must also set out how the scheme’s asset managers are incentivised to align their investment strategy and decisions with the trustees’ investment policies, including in relation to ESG matters.

“Luckily, if you’re one of the many members of the newer government authorised auto-enrolment pension providers like NEST, there’s a greater chance that your pension is already invested ethically, as NEST has led the way with ensuring its funds are invested in ethical and sustainable sectors only – that means no fossil fuels, no arms etc.”

Ms Stanley went on to detail some of the dangers posed by non-ethical pensions.

“Pension investment options merely reflect the world around us,” she suggested.

“Up to now, a massive component of that world has been fossil fuel energy. So naturally, these companies have featured strongly in pension funds. One investment in particular that has typically ticked all the boxes for pension fund managers is oil.

“You will find oil companies like BP and Shell in almost all major ‘default’ pension schemes. Oil companies are huge, and they are relatively old compared to companies in some other sectors, with long performance histories.

“Despite the odd shock, over time, they have been quite dependable investments. Oil companies have also always been good at paying dividends, which have provided a good, reliable source of income for pension fund managers.

“However, many people, including David Attenborough in his latest documentary, a Life on Our Planet, consider that the single biggest thing we can do to ensure the future of our planet, is divest from fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy.

“With so much pension fund money tied up in fossil fuels, those older, less sustainable funds, won’t be able to be as nimble and make this switch quickly.

“And that’s before we even look at the environmental consequences of continuing to invest in oil. Then the whole exercise of saving for a pension that contains oil becomes rather pointless, because the world won’t be a very enjoyable place when you retire.

“In a world that survives and thrives as Attenborough hopes, pensions will have to find something else to invest in.”

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