Local campaigners call for radical changes at Surrey Pension Fund.
“Many people think pensions are boring and can be safely ignored until they near retirement” said Ian Chappell, a member of Surrey Pension Act Now, a local group campaigning for climate justice through pensions. “But this could not be further from the truth. Surrey Pension Fund has immense financial power with investments worth over £5billion. Using our money, their investments shape our society for good or ill – they can invest in sectors which are sustainable and clean or they can continue to own companies with dying, dirty technologies.
We call upon Surrey Pension Fund to radically change its thinking on investment. The committee is well intentioned, serious and hardworking. But they fail to recognise the crucial, urgent action they can and must take to mitigate the twin threats of the climate and nature emergencies.”
Jenifer Condit, Surrey Pension Act Now member and former investment banker, emphasised this need for urgency. “Our goal is to maintain a habitable planet for ourselves and all life. Surrey Pension Fund acknowledges it has a role to play in achieving this goal but appears to make a mistake in thinking it is more useful to fine tune its response than to act. I am alarmed that it has taken almost a year to craft its new Responsible Investment policy, a work still in progress. The Committee now intends to spend yet more time reviewing its investment strategy, before setting a net zero target.”
Ian added “Surrey Pension Fund voices concerns about serial climate offenders such as Shell, who they voted against at their annual general meetings at four of the last five years, and banks that continue to fund new exploration for oil and gas, despite the International Energy Agency’s call for no more new oil. But these concerns have resulted only in endless dialogue and inconsequential voting at annual general meetings. They refuse to wield their financial power by selling these companies, failing to extend last year’s welcome decision to transfer some investments into a low carbon fund. Surrey residents need Surrey Pension Fund to talk less and use more of their financial clout.
Underpinning these issues, the Fund’s Committee needs new perspectives and new voices. They need to hear the views of young people, women and residents from diverse social backgrounds across Surrey. They use three sets of professional advisers who are steeped in pensions dogma and trapped by their past advice; we encourage them to listen to a wider range of expert voices.
Surrey residents understandably list the cost of living as a major concern. If Surrey Pension Fund take the actions as we suggest, the Fund should benefit financially, with reduced risk of future loss. Through time, this would mean lower council taxes than if they persist with current policies and their deep inertia.”