Most Swiss pension fund members want ESG investments

windfarm 410The majority, 72%, of Swiss pension scheme members want their pension fund to take into account financially relevant environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions.

A similar proportion, 73%, said these kinds of sustainable investment strategies lead to more prudent decisions, according to the survey of 1,200 Swiss pension scheme members by sustainable investment firm RobecoSAM and market researcher gfs-zürich.

Respondents were willing to support ESG factors even if it meant foregoing returns on their investments. A fifth said they would give up half or more of their returns if ESG factors were made part of the investment process, while a further 55% would give up less than half. Only 27% said they would support ESG factors only if there was no effect on returns.

Although this seems an appealing result for ESG campaigners, the report by RobecoSAM said more education was needed. Though most scheme members said they support ESG factors when asked, their attitude for the topic was less clear when answering open questions.

“This shows that the topic is masked by concerns about financial security and pension protection,” says the report. “In order to win the hearts and minds of the sceptics in the Swiss population for the integration of ESG factors in pension fund investment processes, it will be necessary to refute the argument that a sustainable strategy has a negative impact on yields.”

There are 2,000 pension funds in Switzerland which manage about 600 billion Swiss francs (€496 billion).

A recent report by the European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif) found that two-fifths of professionally managed assets are subject to some kind of socially responsible investment (SRI) criteria. An exclusion policy, in which assets linked to controversial industries such as cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, was the most popular form of responsible investment.

©2014 funds europe