Pension schemes warned to do more in climate fight

The CEO of the UK’s workplace pensions regulatory body has said it wants trustees to ensure they are playing their part in the fight against climate change.

The Pensions Regulator’s Charles Counsell said there were concerns that too few schemes were taking action and change needed to be delivered.

“We want trustees to continue to build their capability around climate and ESG,” he said. “As set out in our corporate strategy, we will be monitoring decision-making to ensure it stands up to scrutiny. Our research shows too few schemes are integrating climate change into their decision making, which means investment performance and savers could suffer. We want to see this change.

“We look forward to seeing more schemes demonstrating they are considering climate change in their investment strategies, allocating sufficient time and resources to assessing financial risks and opportunities associated with climate change and ensuring process used to manage those risks and opportunities are robust.”

Counsell warned: “We also want to see trustees required to submit Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) reports do so without the need for us to take enforcement action. Trustees should also ensure the advice they receive from external experts is robust and represents value for money.”

Aside from the fight against climate change the Pensions Regulator is also keen to enhance diversity.

“We have been clear in our Corporate Strategy that we want all savers to get good value for their money, and that decisions made on behalf of savers stand up to scrutiny. Improving diversity across the pensions industry is fundamental to these goals,” explained Counsell.  “Building diverse boards means all of us all sharing information and working collaboratively. To this end, we set up an Industry Working Group to tackle the barriers to diversity and inclusion across the industry. When we first called on industry to join the group, we were delighted that more than 60 representatives from across the sector wanted to be involved.

“Regular meetings began last year and an action plan will be published in the coming months. Our volunteers are producing some fantastic materials and insights that will help support the recruitment and appointment of more diverse trustees and also provide a baseline to measure how we are making progress. We all want to make a sustained difference; this is not a short-term initiative and it will take time to embed.”

He said in the body’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion strategy, it had pledged to work towards gaining an increased understanding of why pensions inequalities occur.

“We will work with government and the industry to look at ways of reducing inequalities in saving. As part of that, we remain supportive of the Department of Work and Pension’s 2017 automatic enrolment review proposals which seek to open up workplace pensions to more savers.”

However he added that this could not be done in isolation.

“We cannot realise our commitments without our regulated community all pulling in the same direction and trusting we are doing the right things as a regulator,” said Counsell “Last year we published results from our Perceptions Tracker Survey which showed 95% of respondents thought we were trustworthy and 77% thought were fair and evidence based. We want to ensure we continue to build and maintain that confidence and trust so that we can all work successfully together to achieve the best for all savers.”

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