Planetary Pulse: making pensions greener

Ninety One's survey shows UK pension fund members are keen to invest environmentally.

3 Dec 2019

3 minutes

UK pension fund members are keen to dedicate part of their portfolios to environmentally focused investments, according to a survey by Investec Asset Management. Planetary Pulse, a survey of over 2,000 British pension fund members (adults who are in employment and contribute to a pension), found that:
  • 61% of UK pension fund members are willing for a proportion of their workplace pension to default into environmental investments.
  • 31% already invest environmentally.
  • 58% of those that invest environmentally plan to increase their green investments.

Read the full survey results

Climate concern is widespread

According to the survey, the great majority of people are concerned about climate change (85%). Most are taking steps to reduce their environmental impact (94%) — including by reducing plastic and packaging waste and by making more environmentally friendly food and transport choices.

Strong willingness and intention to invest

The survey found a high level of willingness to allocate to investments that contribute to tackling the climate crisis. Six in 10 respondents (61%) said they would be comfortable for a proportion of their workplace pension to default into environmentally-focused investments. That figure increased to 72% for the 18-34 year olds surveyed, highlighting greater awareness and concern about environmental matters among younger generations.

Pensions are starting to reflect climate action

Almost one third (31%) of respondents said they currently invest in environmentally-focused funds or companies; some 59% of these people plan to increase their allocation within the next three years. Almost two-thirds (63%) of survey respondents either are investing, or would like to invest, in businesses that are aligned with their personal views, including those that are tackling climate change.

Drivers of investment

Performance remains overwhelmingly the primary determinant of fund selection. People are much more likely to invest in climate-focused funds and other environmental investment products if they believe doing so could enhance returns, the survey found:
  • Some 69% of investors say that strong actual or potential performance would motivate them to invest in climate-focused funds.
  • Encouragingly, 83% of investors believe environmentally-focused funds have the potential to deliver competitive returns.
  • Only 25% say they would allocate capital based on the potential to achieve an environmental benefit.

The investment industry has a key role to play in helping people understand how environmental investments fit in their portfolios:
  • 6% of respondents would be motivated to invest environmentally by clear industry guidelines outlining the percentage of an investment portfolio which should be invested environmentally.
  • 15% would value consistent and continuous industry measurement to enable them to select the most appropriate environmental products.

However, while almost all major asset managers now incorporate ESG (environmental, social & governance) factors into their investment strategies, the Planetary Pulse survey suggests the investing public are less clear on the potential link between environmental issues and investment performance.

Less than one-third (29%) of respondents said they worried that the industries their pension invests in will be negatively impacted upon by climate change regulation. This suggests a wide gap between the high level of concern people have for the environment and their understanding of how climate action may influence portfolio returns.

Potential barriers to investment

Potentially limiting the speed at which portfolios are being adapted in response to climate action, the survey revealed that many people are unaware of how their own pension money is invested.
  • Only 15% of those with workplace pensions and 24% of those with personal pensions say they know exactly where their money is invested.
  • Over half (56%) of those with workplace pensions claim to have little or no input into capital-allocation decisions.
  • A similar proportion of respondents (47%) say they do not know whether they have invested in environmentally-focused funds or companies.

Read the full survey results

About the survey

  • 2,004 pension investors surveyed from across the UK; 53% male, 47% female
  • 88% have workplace pensions, 41% have personal pensions
  • 55% have access to a financial advisor, either privately or through their employer
  • Age ranges: 18-34 = 23%; 35-44 = 29%; 45-54 = 24%; 55-64 = 19%; 65+ = 5% 

Important Information

This communication is provided for general information only should not be construed as advice.

All the information in is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. The views are those of the contributor at the time of publication and do not necessary reflect those of Ninety One.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.

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