Building the movement of savers engaging their pension schemes on responsible investment

Your pension has an effect on the world. We help you to discover what your savings are invested in – whether they’re funding agriculture or arms, renewables or fossil fuels. We then support you to get your voice heard by your scheme, to help ensure that the impact your investments have in the real world are in line with your own beliefs and values.

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Why this is important and what we’re doing about it

Companies, property developments, infrastructure and governments: all of these things require investment. Where does that investment come from? In many cases the answer is us – savers, employees and consumers. Trillions of pounds worth of our retirement savings are invested in stocks, bonds and assets, meaning that together we effectively own many of the companies we see on our high streets.

But while the money invested is ultimately ours, the investment industry – the system which we hand that money over to – can be opaque, confusing and detached. It’s no surprise therefore that many savers want more of a voice in this system, and more say over how their money is spent.

That’s where we come in. We support savers to open up this system and to ensure it is a genuine force of good. We educate and organise savers to improve pension fund transparency and accountability, and to invest responsibly. We want to create good pension schemes: institutions we can take pride in, and place trust in. Alongside savers, we’ve defined what that a good scheme looks like, and are now pushing to see our recommendations put into practice.

  • A good scheme listens
    How our schemes speak and listen to us is vital. To ensure good communication and good accountability schemes should hold an annual member meeting.
  • A good scheme is well governed
    It’s our money, so we’ve got to be involved in the decisions about how it’s spent. Members should be able to stand for election, to ensure member-nominated trustees make up no less than one-third of the board.
  • A good scheme invests well
    Our schemes should ensure their investments don’t degrade the planet, harm people or fragment society. This approach will be win-win, benefiting us as investors financially and benefiting our families and communities too.

Through hard work and perseverance, progress is being made in these areas. With our help, savers have opened meaningful dialogue with decision-makers at their schemes. By organising in their workplaces and building teams of fund members, they been able to sustain energy and continue those interactions. Through that, savers have achieved real changes in investment policies and approaches at their funds.

What’s next?

We’ve built a network of passionate and focused members ready to change their schemes. We’re informed, we’re involved, we’re active and we’re working to ensure our money is a force for good. Get in touch with us to find out how you can use your Pension Power.

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Campaign resources

Mission: Pension Power

This is our easy to use Pension Power toolkit. This guide will enable you to use the power of your pension to create change through the investment system on the issues that matter to you, from climate change to fair pay.

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All Pension Power resources

Meet the people using Pension Power

Pension Power is nothing without its people. These profiles are a window onto members who, by taking action with their money, are changing the pensions system for the better.



Pension Power teams

Pension Power is about taking ownership of your money. Connecting to and influencing your pension scheme is a way of encouraging action that can improve outcomes for savers, for your community and for the environment.


Aegon

Savers at Aegon have been engaging their scheme for the last two years on the issues of member communication, member governance and the development of low carbon investment opportunities. While at times it has been tough engaging with the scheme, members have stayed committed. Recently good progress has been made with the scheme committing to investigate new funds that tackle climate risk; improve member communications and consider holding a consider holding an annual members meeting. Watch this space for more action in 2017.

Aviva

The team of savers with Aviva are pushing for their scheme to hold an annual meeting for members, and for the scheme to develop low-carbon products and policies. Over the last two years, members have enjoyed a healthy relationship with them scheme, meeting regularly with senior staff at Aviva and feeding in to the scheme’s surveys, materials and policies. The team has grown consistently in this period, now numbering between 15-20 active members from number of different employers.

East Riding

East Riding Pension Fund recognises that climate change is a risk to the fund but have yet to disclose detailed information about how it is managed. Members have been unable to meet the fund yet but have attended AGMs. Watch this space!

Hampshire

Members of Hampshire Pension Fund are asking for a climate audit and a shift on investments away from fossil fuels. Unfortunately Hampshire Pension fund does not consider climate change a significant risk in respect to other threats. Members are pushing for climate change risk to be fully understood by the fund and are pursuing a meeting with them to discuss that issue.

Islington

Members of the London Borough of Islington Pension Fund are asking their scheme to follow best practice among local government schemes by adopting policies which encourage low carbon investment. The scheme holds an annual meeting which members are welcome to attend, and for the last few years a group of members supported by ShareAction have questioned the scheme on their responsible investment practices in general and on their climate policies in particular, receiving positive responses from the scheme.

Legal & General

The L&G Pension Power group includes over 20 members. They have been working for the last few years to engage the scheme. Members have now secured twice-yearly meetings with the Head of Defined Contribution Solutions and others. That engagement is progressing well. L&G have recently introduced a new Future World Fund which offers climate risk protection. This model would be a suitable product for pension schemes which are passively invested and wish to protect their savings from the effects of climate change.

Leicestershire

Leicestershire Pension Fund have to date failed to consider the risk climate change poses to the investments it makes on behalf of members. Members have worked determinedly and sent multiple letters, as well as attending the scheme’s AGM, to get the fund to listen. This Pension Power team would like the fund to undertake a climate risk audit to understand the depth of risks it faces and develop a robust climate policy to mitigate those risks.

LPFA

Members of the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA) have been engaging their scheme for a number of years, attending each of the last four annual meetings held by the scheme, as well as writing to the fund about its renewables investments in 2014. This engagement has drawn recognition from the Chief Executive at the LPFA, and encouraged the scheme to lower their exposure to fossil fuels. Members are continuing to engage the scheme, aiming to improve the responsible investment practice of the scheme itself, as well as the pooled fund in which it sits: the Local Pensions Partnership.

National Grid

Members of National Grid Pension Scheme are asking for action on climate risk. While the scheme acknowledges the issue of climate risk in its investment policy members feel more action is required. Members are now team building and planning their next steps.

Pearson

The team of savers at Pearson are working with ShareAction to develop a pension product that addresses both their financial interests and their values. They are bringing together employees, employer and pension scheme to design and develop a new default fund that is recognisably grounded in Pearson’s values and purpose whilst being a world class investment product. The team has been developing in the last 2 years and now numbers around 10.

SAUL

Members of the Superannuation Arrangements for the University of London (SAUL) met with executives of their scheme for the first time in 2015. They were concerned that the scheme weren’t integrating the concerns of members into investment decisions – particularly with regard to their climate policies. 18 months later, at the beginning of 2017, the scheme are poised to undertake a climate audit, measuring their exposure to fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries, and have been in regular engagement with SAUL members.

Scottish Widows

The team of savers with Scottish Widows are pushing for their scheme to hold an annual meeting for members, appoint a member representative to their governance committee and to develop low-carbon products and policies. Over the last two years, members have been meeting regularly with staff at Scottish Widows. As a result of saver engagement the scheme has conducted climate audits on a selection of funds and also a general review of their responsible investment policy. As a result of the work the team has grown consistently in this period, now numbering between 15-20 active members from a number of different employers.

Shell

Members of the Shell Contributory Pension Fund have reached out to their fund for information on how it manages and mitigates the risks of climate change. The members of this team perhaps face the most significant risks out of our teams as Shell continues to contribute significantly to climate change. Members are calling for the fund to introduce a low carbon tilt on investments which will reduce its exposure to climate risk.

Standard Life

Members of the Standard Life team have only recently formed into a team. We are in the process of securing a meeting with representatives of the fund. We are hopeful of forming a relationship similar to those developed by the Aviva and L&G Pension Power teams, as they engage with their pension providers on a twice-yearly basis.

Surrey

Members have recently begun engagement with Surrey Pension Fund and it is looking promising. Watch this space!

The Pensions Trust

Members have been meeting with The Pensions Trust for a number of years, pushing the fund to hold an annual meeting for members and to develop low carbon investment approaches. Over the last two years, members have built a healthy relationship with fund executives, meeting regularly with the Chair of Trustees and responsible investment staff. Members advocated and succeeded in ensuring the fund measures and discloses the carbon footprint of funds annually. It has also made significant progress in planning for climate risk and developing a clear climate policy to support their approach.

Transport for London

Over the course of the last year, members have been in regular communication with decision-makers Transport for London pension scheme. Members have written to the board and individuals involved in the management of the scheme, and tabled questions at the annual meeting for members. Influenced by this sustained engagement from members, Transport for London pension scheme have committed to join the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and to undertake a climate audit, specifically measuring their exposure to fossil fuels across the portfolio.

USS

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Pension Power team is the largest and the longest standing that ShareAction supports, with a members’ campaign for responsible investment dating back to 1997. Higher education staff have consistently pressed for their scheme to invest more ethically, encouraging the creation of the scheme’s Responsible Investment policy in 1999. More recently, thousands of members have petitioned USS to exclude manufacturers of controversial weapons from the fund’s portfolio, and to take a more active stance in mitigating the risks of climate change. These efforts led to the development of a specific climate policy in 2016. The Pension Power team of 30 represents a wider network of almost 5,000 interested members who have supported the initiatives above. You can find out more here.

West Yorkshire

The West Yorkshire Pension Fund is heavily invested in fossil fuels. Members are seeking to shift these investments with the ultimate aim of divestment and commitments similar to those of the Environmental Agency Pension Fund. Members have worked hard to push the scheme to disclose information on climate risk through multiple letters and Freedom of Information requests. They were successful at getting answers to 7 climate risk questions at the fund’s annual meeting!

Wiltshire

Members of the Wiltshire Pension Fund have been in communication with a number of different people from the scheme, receiving mixed messaging on where the fund stands with regards to managing climate change risk. They recently met with the Chair of the pension fund, and are looking for a further meeting in order to build engagement and progress with the view of persuading the fund to hold an official annual member meeting to which all members are invited.


Find out more

Jamie Audsley Head of Education & Organising

We are currently updating our system to be in line with the General Data Protection Regulations that will come into force on 25 May 2018. We will re-post a sign-up form for you soon, but feel free to get in touch with our team on info@shareaction.org for any reason before then.

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Colette St-OngePension Power