Stockholm (NordSIP) – The following is a translation of an article published in the Danish political magazine Altinget by Danish pension company Forsikring & Pension Assistant Director Karsten Beltoft.
Responsible Investments Worth DKK 3 trillion Should Follow International Guidelines
There is no contradiction between taking social responsibility while simultaneously ensuring the best possible returns – but the balance can be difficult, writes Forsikring & Pension.
[Denmark’s] government is due to publish its updated guide on responsible investments in short order.
For Forsikring & Pension, it is important that this updated guide will reflect that the management of responsible investments is a global concern.
Pension companies are heavily invested internationally, which means that the rules and guidelines they must follow must also reflect international regulation.
Among other things, the UN and OECD have developed recognised principles and guidelines that form the point of departure for the work of pension companies in responsible investing. It is therefore reasonable to have international regulation, which should also be reflected in the new [Danish] guidelines.
There is an increasing international interest in responsible investments. Recently, the European Commission announced that responsible investments are high on its agenda and are a top priority in their annual programme for 2018.
The vast majority of pension companies pay close attention to responsible investing, but requirements from the outside world evolve constantly, meaning that pension companies work according to a moving target.
That’s what DKK 3 trillion is for
Danish pension companies today manage DKK 3 trillion, which amounts to 140 per cent of Denmark’s Gross National Product.
The pension savings of Danes is therefore instrumental in contributing to the growth and development of society.
Responsible investments are largely about what is invested in – or not. But it is not just a question of picking and choosing. Active ownership, screening and exclusion are central to working with responsible investments. Pension companies thereby screen investments according to international and UN and OECD guidelines.
If a pension company experiences that a company it is invested in behaves unsatisfactorily, it may choose to influence the company in a more responsible direction through dialogue or by voting at general meetings, sometimes together with other investors.
If a company persists in performing in an unsatisfactory manner, a pension fund may choose to exclude it from its investment portfolio as a last resort.
Forsikring & Pension believes there is no contradiction between taking responsibility and ensuring the best possible returns. However, pension companies as global investors are often faced with a wide range of dilemmas connected with investments. Such dilemmas can span everything from climate change to human rights and global conflict flashpoints.
Energy resources are a hotly debated topic. Today Denmark allocates 70/30 between fossil fuels and green energy, and society is still largely dependent on fossil fuels. However, this considerable overweight in the consumption of fossil fuels does not mean that pension companies are primarily invested “in the black”. On the contrary, energy investments show the opposite. This means 70 per cent of energy investments are in green energy.
There are a host of other areas that pose dilemmas, such as products like tobacco, sugar and alcohol that can be hazardous to health. They are, however, fully legal to produce, sell and consume, so where is the limit for what is right and wrong to invest in?
NGOs and politicians often ignore many of these dilemmas and demand that pension companies simply sell their shares in the affected companies.
This is, however, often far from being the best decision, as it doesn’t solve the underlying problems. A more responsible handling of the dilemma is through active ownership, where pension companies enter into dialogue with companies, before they as a last resort reach towards divestment and exclusion.
Translation: Glenn Leaper
Image: © www.forsikringogpension.dk