Three professors will advise the largest pension fund, ABP, on socially responsible investing. The new “committee of experts” comes in response to growing discontent among university employees over the investment policy of the pension fund, which government and education employees are obliged to join.
For example, young scientists from different universities, united in “Young Academies”, and sent a working group “Scientists for the Future” A message to the university and college councils. They had to pressure ABP to make the changes. Several councils have done this in recent weeks. Their demands: ABP should phase out all investments in fossil energy companies before the end of 2024. An independent panel should check whether the investment portfolio is in line with climate goals.
In consultation with the umbrella organization of universities, VSNU, ABP has now adopted the second requirement. ABP president Corien Wortmann says he is “happy” with the new advisory club. “We believe it is necessary to sharpen our ambition,” she says, although she calls the current ABP policy “direction” “good in itself.”
ABP, which has invested a capital of 509 billion euros, has not yet responded to another request of young scientists: completely phase out investments in fossil energy companies. According to an ABP spokesperson, President Wortmann will respond to this on Friday. Then there is a demonstration at the ABP offices in Amsterdam and Heerlen, organized by the Fossielvrij NL working group.
proven goals أهداف
The committee will issue a recommendation to the ABP twice a year, says Intended Chief Economist Dirk Schoenemaker, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam who specializes in sustainable finance.
The committee primarily wants to help the pension fund base its investment policy on scientifically proven goals. “Take 1.5 degrees of global warming,” says Schoenmaker. “If you want to prevent global warming even further, you can calculate the rate at which carbon dioxide is being released2 You must reduce. With this knowledge you can begin to analyze companies: are they meeting this path or are they lagging behind? We will use this kind of knowledge in our advice.”
The committee consists of three members. In addition to the Schoenmaker, these are the economist and pension expert Roel Beetsma (University of Amsterdam) and climate scientist Heleen de Coninck (Radboud University), who have contributed to several reports from the UN’s scientific climate committee, IPCC.
Bi-annual counseling provided to the ABP program will remain confidential. However, the committee will submit an annual report on the website of the university’s umbrella organization VSNU.
Schoenemaker says the new panel will first advise on climate. The most pressing issue. This can then be expanded to include other United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The committee will not focus its advice on specific companies in which ABP may or may not be able to invest. “We wouldn’t say BP would and Exxon wouldn’t,” says Schoenemaker. “We are scientists. We want to stick to what we have last. We translate what science says into investment policy. This is where our turn ends.”
It remains unclear whether the committee will provide advice on the way ABP exercises influence over the companies it contributes to, for example over voting behavior at shareholder meetings.
Last month, at a shareholder meeting for oil and gas company Shell, ABP disagreed with a proposal by collective investors Follow This, which called on Shell to act in line with the Paris Agreement. The other three big pension funds, Zorg en Welzijn, PMT and PME, backed the call, as did investors such as Aegon, Nationale-Nederlanden and Achmea.
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of June 22, 2021