DENMARK - Public and media pressure is increasingly forcing Danish pension funds to focus on social and ethical concerns in their investments.
Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO of the DKK114bn (US$24bn) PKA fund, said up until recently, the general view had been that socially responsible investing (SRI) was, at most, a 'nice to have' element of investment practices, but this had changed dramatically over the course of the past 12 months.
Part of the push towards interest in SRI issues had been the profile afforded to the public debate on this subject.
Denmark is due to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 and, as such, the government and media have focused a lot of attention on these issues.
"Climate is a very hot issue," Damgaard Jensen said. "Some of my colleagues had a view that this was not a concern for the pension funds [but] there has been a big public and media debate that everybody needs to have a policy in this area.
"Much of the debate has focuses on specific issues - cluster bombs, human rights issues and so on."
Ketil Petersen, country head Nordic region, Schroders, noted that while SRI had become a popular subject, this has so far failed to translate into SRI-specific products.
He said: "Most pension funds today have some form of ethical guidelines for investments. I don't see a flood of SRI funds - clients define their own criteria."
Damgaard Jensen added: "SRI questions have been discussed very heavily in Denmark. Today everybody realises they have to have some kind of guidelines. But it's not enough to have guidelines, they have to show evidence of it."
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