The 20 largest UK pension schemes that are yet to set net zero climate targets have been named and shamed by campaign group Make My Money Matter (MMMM).
The schemes collectively manage more than £200 billion of UK savers’ pension money, which gives them immense power to help tackle the climate crisis. However, based on market averages, investments this size could be enabling 24 million tonnes of carbon to be released into the atmosphere each year – equal to the carbon footprint of around three million British adults.
Many of those that have failed to commit to net zero are sponsored by high profile brands which claim to be leaders on sustainability, according to MMMM. For example, Boots and Vodafone have committed to net zero by 2040, and car manufacturer Ford has said it will reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Yet each has a pension misaligned with these goals.
It means that the billions managed by their pension schemes could be undermining the hard work they’re doing to fight climate change. MMMM says this highlights the need for all businesses to integrate pensions fully into their sustainability strategies.
The group is calling on all pension schemes – particularly those listed below – to take urgent action and set robust net zero goals, and for all businesses to integrate pensions fully into their sustainability strategies.
The 20 largest pension schemes that have yet to set net zero targets (in alphabetical order):
- BMW Operations Pension Scheme
- Boots Pension Scheme
- BP Pension Fund
- British Airways Pension Schemes (Airways Pension Scheme and New Airways Pension Scheme)
- British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme
- British Steel Pension Scheme (Tata Steel)
- Centrica Pension Schemes
- Diageo Pension Scheme
- Ford Salaried; Hourly Paid Contributory & Senior Staff Pension Funds
- IBM Pension Plan
- ICI Pension Fund
- Lothian Pension Fund
- Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme
- Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee
- Prudential Staff Pension Scheme Defined Benefit Section
- RWE Group pension scheme
- Santander Group Pension Scheme
- Shell Contributory Pension Fund
- Vodafone Group Pension Scheme
- Zurich Financial Services UK Pension Scheme
MMMM, which has campaigned for the sector to reach robust net zero since it launched in June 2020, says it has been contacting these schemes for a year to urge them to set net zero targets with no success.
Richard Curtis, Co-Founder of MMMM, said: “Leading businesses are urgently acting on sustainability, but it turns out many are missing an enormous trick – their pensions. Now is the time for all businesses to integrate their pensions into their sustainability plans, at the same time as pension funds are being asked to acknowledge the urgency of the moment and themselves set robust net zero strategies.
“We hope this report helps wake up both business leaders and those in the pensions industry to the extraordinary power of our money. In doing so they can make sure our pensions are helping tackle the climate crisis, not fuelling the fire.”
Huw Davies, Senior Finance Adviser at Make My Money Matter added: “Given the need for urgent action on climate this decade, it is concerning that many major pension schemes have still not yet set net zero targets. We want to see all pension schemes set credible climate targets – in particular the largest schemes which have yet to commit and which collectively account for a sizeable proportion of UK savers’ money.”
The list of climate laggards comes after M&S Pension Scheme, the Co-op pension scheme ‘Pace’, and the Royal Mail Pension Plan committed to halving the emissions of their investments by 2030 at the latest, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The M&S Pension Scheme made the most ambitious pledge, aiming to reach net zero across its portfolio by 2040, whilst Royal Mail Pension Plan and Pace have committed to Paris-aligned 2050 targets.
Huw said: “Other schemes now need to follow, and corporate sponsors should back their schemes to act on climate. Failure to do so risks the very futures our pensions are there to provide for.”