Socially responsible investment policies among UK pension schemes are being side-stepped, according to Henderson Global Investors.
And it claims action taken by pension schemes in response to government legislation – which requires them to set out their investment principles on social and environmental issues – was minimal.
HGI’s director of institutional marketing and a leading SRI expert, Mike Shaw, said: “I am not aware of a private sector pension fund that has an SRI mandate.
“Pension schemes use forms of words for their statement principles to say that the responsibility for SRI issues is taken by the fund managers.”
He added: “There are various ways of saying that. From saying ‘We just delegate it to the fund manager’ to ‘We think SRI is an important part of a successful companies business operations and we expect fund managers to take due note of that what they are investing’.”
He said schemes’ resistance to SRI funds came despite strong performance in industry measurement benchmarks and argued that there was a misconceived belief among some schemes that SRI funds are “over-exclusive” in their choice of investments.
Standard Life Investments investment director Amanda Forsyth disagreed and said: “Pension trustees are leaving SRI up to the fund manager, but why shouldn’t they? It is very hard for pension fund trustees to say anything other than we take a positive approach to SRI. They would not really be able to exclude many companies from their investment universe because it would set them up with an unacceptable amount of investment risk.”
Forsyth confirmed that there had been interest in Standard Life’s ethical fund from “several” private schemes but could not confirm them as negotiations were still under way.
By David Rowley
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