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Driving pension change the sustainable way

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 07 Dec 2022

Make My Money Matter, winner of the ‘Driving change in the finance community’ award at the Finance for the Future Awards 2022, wants us to know the power of our pensions.

There’s £3trn in UK pensions, but there’s also a hidden carbon footprint that could be affecting us all. Pension funds invest money on our behalf, but that money could go into companies, supply chains and industries that accelerate climate change, such as tobacco and fossil fuels. 

Make My Money Matter is a campaign on a mission to empower people, giving them greater knowledge of the impacts of their investments and the confidence to challenge their pension providers to go green. The message is clear: by campaigning for responsible investments now, we’ll retire into a better, cleaner world in the future.

Make My Money Matter was co-founded by filmmaker and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocate Richard Curtis and Jo Corlett, Department for International Development (DFID) Special Adviser. David Hayman, Campaign Director, says the driving force behind the campaign is to “help members of the public understand the extraordinary power of their pensions, and then use that power to address the growing climate emergency”. 

According to a September 2022 report, FTSE100 Pensions Emissions, 72% of employees say it’s important that their employer invests their pension sustainably. Yet only 45% of UK CEOs and managing directors make any connection between their company pensions and climate change.

Petition for change

The people-powered campaign was launched in June 2020 and has already had a significant effect on the pensions industry: £1.3trn of pension money is now committed to robust net zero. More than 100 businesses have signed up to its Green Pensions Charter, including household names Tesco, IKEA, BAFTA and WWF. In the first initiative of its kind, the charter encourages signatories to explore how their staff pension scheme can align to net zero by 2050.

Make My Money Matter is urgently calling for the government and industry leaders to help drive this transition, through better investments and sustainable practice. They want pension funds to be transparent about how they’re taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks into account, and are aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Through in-depth carbon savings research, the organisation found that making your pension green is 21 times more effective than giving up flying, becoming vegetarian or even switching energy provider. As a result, it is encouraging the public to take the ‘21x challenge’. There have been some big wins. Tens of thousands of people have already taken action, from signing the ongoing Make My Money Matter petition to directly contacting their pension providers for answers. Meanwhile, there’s been an 85% increase in awareness of the link between pensions and climate change.

Global impact

Despite the campaign’s overwhelming support, there have been challenges. Hayman admits that communicating information about pensions is never easy, especially over the past few years. Focusing on the potential for impact has been crucial to getting people on board in such uncertain times: “People’s concerns have been impacted by COVID-19, global conflict and the current cost-of-living crisis. We’ve been able to activate the public by showing the power of our money to make a positive difference and ensuring people understand it doesn’t have to cost them anything,” he explains.

Make My Money Matter has also found another gap in the market: Hayman suggests a new campaign will launch focusing on banking, helping millions of UK bank account holders demand more. But greener pensions will stay on their list of priorities – Hayman stresses they will continue to hold pension funds to account on their commitments: “We want to take our campaign global, so we can make our money matter everywhere.”

Released earlier this month, the campaign’s first ever Climate Action Report highlights both the progress made by industry leaders and the critical gaps that schemes must address in 2023. It lists key recommendations and measures that schemes should take to achieve meaningful change – from setting short-term targets to active stewardship – making it a vital resource for businesses. 

Finance for the Future

The 2023 awards are open for entries.

Finance for the Future Awards logo

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