Press release / 9 March 2023

Dutch Pension funds do not vote in line with climate ambitions

Authors note rectification 13 April 2023

Most Dutch pension funds and their asset managers do not vote consistently in favour of climate resolutions at the oil and gas companies and banks in which they invest. That is the conclusion of a report published today by Both ENDS and Groen Pensioen. Eleven of the twelve* Dutch pension funds studied have made public statements and pledges about adapting their policies in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. But their voting behaviour does not sufficiently correspond with these pledges. Only pension fund PME votes for 100% in line with its own climate promises.

None of the companies involved in fossil fuels has drawn up a credible business plan compatible with the 1.5 degree goal agreed in Paris. Participants in pension plans have been calling on their pension funds for many years to withdraw from the fossil sector, but too little comes of that in practice. Some pension funds continue to invest in the sector with the stated intention to use their influence as shareholders to push fossil companies in the right direction. This study shows, however, that pension funds exert their influence insufficiently and that their engagement has hardly led a change of course among fossil companies.

Banks out of the fossil sector too

The researchers focused on voting behaviour on climate resolutions at oil and gas companies and banks. The latter play a key role as, without financing, fossil projects cannot be implemented. "Eleven of the twelve pension funds and their asset managers that we studied did not use their votes to send sufficiently strong messages," says Cindy Coltman of Both ENDS. "To have a realistic chance of keeping global warming below 1.5°C, it is essential that pension funds stop investing in oil and gas companies and exert pressure on banks to stop financing the fossil sector. And that is not happening enough."

Clear expectations

Pension funds normally vote in 75% to 98% of cases in favour of general resolutions, for example on the appointment of board members or management plans. The report shows that, in the case of climate resolutions, that percentage is much lower. Most pension funds vote in favour of the climate in only 58% to 89% of cases. "We would expect pension funds that claim to take the climate seriously to vote in favour of all resolutions that will have a positive effect on the climate," says Marjolein van Dillen of Groen Pensioen. "They have to overcome their fear of being 'too controlling or too difficult' for the companies in which they invest, and indicate clearly what they expect of the companies in terms of climate policy."

Using their influence

The researchers think that pension funds should lay out a clearer vision on fossil and sustainable investments. And they should be much more assertive in using the influence they have to redirect financing towards the renewable sector and climate solutions.
"We have seen that pension funds can show genuine leadership," says Coltman. "ABP and PME have almost entirely phased out their investments in fossil companies. That means that the pension funds we studied can utilise their engagement much more effectively or, if they really want to effect change, can withdraw from the fossil sector completely. We also believe that they should be much more transparent towards their pension savers about their plans and engagement in that respect. 'Business as usual' is no longer an option in a world that is wrestling with enormous climate problems".



* The pension funds studied were ABP, PFZW, PMT, BpfBouw, PWRI, PF Vervoer, Rabobank PF, BPL, PME, PNO Media, SPH and SPMS

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