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Despite criticism, improvement in Dutch pension funds' investment policies slow

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Improvement in the area of nature conservation particularly sluggish

One of the most striking findings from the latest research by the Dutch Fair Pension Guide is that the protection of nature is still in bad hands with the ten largest Dutch pension funds. However similarly on themes such as health, weapons, animal welfare, taxation and gender, policies on investing responsibly also fall short. These are some of the key conclusions from the newly released Fair Pension Guide survey, which periodically assesses the policies of the ten largest Dutch pension funds on the basis of fourteen social themes.

Large funds such as ABP, PFZW and BPFBouw score a 1 for nature conservation, and none of the funds score higher than a 3. This means that the policies of the funds do not pay sufficient attention to addressing companies that cause damage to nature. Animal welfare is also very poorly-considered in the policy of the funds: all funds score a 1 on this. The ten pension funds score slightly higher for most themes than in the previous update of the policy research (May 2020). The most improved are the scores of Pensioenfonds Detailhandel and Pensioenfonds Vervoer.

Nevertheless, the policies of all pension funds are generally still considerably below par: on average, the pension funds score a 3.7 for their policies on the fourteen themes (on a scale of 1 – 10). In addition to nature and animal welfare,  no fund reaches a sufficient score on health, taxes, gender equality, food or mining.  Cor Oudes, spokesperson for the Fair Pension Guide on behalf of PAX said 'As a participant in a pension fund, you want your contribution to be invested in a socially responsible manner. Unfortunately, despite improvements, the policies are still insufficient on many themes .'

Combating the climate crisis is also not yet a sufficient priority for most funds. PME left the fossil fuel industry last year and ABP indicated that it would do so; both funds therefore score a 10 for 'oil and gas'. Pensioenfonds Horeca & Catering excluded part of this sector, but other funds including PFZW and BPFBouw continue to  invest in the fossil fuel industry. In addition, all funds lack sufficient policies with regard to companies that do not extract fossil fuels, but nonetheless use them on a large scale. Furthermore, it is striking that none of the pension funds have a policy to combat deforestation, which is another major cause of climate change.

Improvements in policies on weapons were virtually non-existent. Only PME scores a sufficient score for this theme (6), because it is the only fund that has a policy against trading arms to countries where human rights are violated. All other funds lack such a policy.

There are themes on which most funds now have sufficient or even good policy: for example BPFBouw and Stipp are the only funds who do not yet achieve sufficient for 'corruption'. Half of the ten funds now score a passing grade for human rights policy. Speaking on the matter Oudes said  'There is a lot of pressure from participants on pension funds to get out of fossil fuels. It is good that some funds are now also responding to this and the rest should follow soon. But responsible investment deals with a wide range of themes, including nature conservation, gender, weapons and abuses in the production of food. All funds must therefore develop a broad responsible investment policy."

Background

  • The Fair Pension Guide is a partnership between Amnesty International, Milieudefensie, Oxfam Novib, PAX and World Animal Protection.
  • This research was carried out by Profundo.
  • On eerlijkepensioenwijzer.nl , consumers can compare, among other things, the scores of the pension funds for their investment policy and investment practice. They can also take action, e.g. by sending their fund a complaint or compliment.

 Read the full report and the factsheet (both in Dutch).

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