Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calling all those in Lewisham Council's Pension Scheme

If you work for Lewisham Council, or one of the contractors that use the Council's Pension Scheme (eg Glendale) please take a few moments to complete this online survey on socially responsible investment issues. (It's the intranet so should only work for Council employees. Some of you may already have filled in a paper version of the survey sent with your last pensions magazine).

Lewisham Council's Pension Fund has a socially responsible investment policy, but it is one of positive engagement, rather than excluding any particular stocks or sectors. As a result, we have investments in most sectors, including arms manufacturers, tobacco companies, companies that test on animals etc. While positive engagement with companies can work in certain sectors, eg a fund manager putting pressure on a clothing company to stop sweatshops and improve workers' rights, it is arguably little more than lip-service in other sectors (eg arms and tobacco companies).

Pension fund trustees have a duty to take into account the moral concerns of pension fund members, as well as a 'primary fiduciary duty' to get the best financial return. However, we need clear evidence of members' concerns to support any stance we take on ethical grounds. So if you don't like your pension fund being invested in any particular sector or company, or you would like fund managers to take a stronger stance on certain issues, this is your chance to say so. As pension fund trustees our hands are to an extent tied unless we are given a mandate by pension fund members to act.

Trustees have a duty to get the best possible financial return on our pension fund investments and when the return on investments is insufficient to meet the Council's contributions, this gap has to be filled from the Council's budget, with a potential knock-on effect on Council Tax bills. That said, good investment returns and socially responsible investment are by no means mutually exclusive and 'ethical' funds and stocks have in a number of cases outperformed less ethical companies in recent months.

1 comment:

Mike Jones said...

As schemes are beginning to take pension education more seriously, you are to be congratulated for using the internet in this blog as one method of communicating with your scheme members. You are way ahead of the game in comparison to most pension schemes.

Mike Jones