UK Pension Holders Back Ethical Investment

The amount of money invested in the UK’s green and ethical retail funds stands at an all-time high of £12.2bn, according to figures released by global responsible investment research firm EIRIS.

Launched in the run up to the UK’s sixth National Ethical Investment Week 13 – 19 October 2013, which will actively promote green and ethical options when taking financial decisions, the latest total compares with a figure of £4bn in 2001. Of the 80 funds that featured in both its 2013 and 2012 estimates, EIRIS estimates that 10 grew by over 50% in the 12 months to June 2013; 23 grew by 20-50% and 18 grew by over 10% (but under 20%).
 
Growing interest in ethical and green finance is supported by the findings of EIRIS’ latest IPSOS MORI national consumer survey which explores attitudes to ethical or green pension options across the UK.

The poll surveyed 2015 adults and explored the extent to which people are concerned about whether the companies in which their pension fund invests abide by certain global conventions and principles. The results reveal a desire that pension funds and their investment managers inform individuals about the extent of their compliance with global conventions and principles.  A significant number of adults would be motivated by green or ethical concerns to switch pension funds.

Among the key findings:

  • Sixty-five per cent of adults felt that it was either essential or very important that a pension scheme invests in companies that act in line with conventions and principles that prevent child labour; 65% felt the same on preventing forced labour; 55% on respecting workers’ rights; 54% on protecting human rights, and 46% on safeguarding the environment.
  • One in 10 adults would like to be informed of how far a pension fund complies with global conventions and principles when selecting a fund for the first time; 43% would like to be informed annually of how their funds implement these in their investments; 18% would like to be informed every six months and 18% would like to be informed quarterly.
  • The poll found that 18% of adults would like to see 100% of their pension scheme invested in a fund that avoids anything where there may be a negative environmental, social or governance (ESG) impact, while 15% would like to see up to a quarter of their scheme invested in a fund that avoids anything where there may be such an impact.
  • Nineteen per cent  of respondents would either be very or fairly interested in switching the standard default pension offered by their employer to a green and ethical product even if its financial performance rates and benefits were slightly less than other similar pension funds without an ethical or green focus. Forty-five per cent would be either very or fairly interested in switching if the financial performance rates and benefits of the ethical or green fund were as good as other pension funds without such a focus.

“We continue to see an increase in the amount of money being invested in green and ethical funds, reflecting the wider interest of consumers in being ethical and sustainable in their purchasing decisions,” said Stephen Hine, head of responsible investment development, EIRIS.

“Not surprisingly, they want their pension funds to address environmental and social factors as well. So this provides a challenge and an opportunity for providers of defined contribution (DC) pension providers. It’s also encouraging that individuals are keen to see their pension providers be transparent about how they ensure their underlying investments follow best practice.”

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