The European Pensions Sector and Sustainable Finance Policy

How European pension funds are advocating on sustainable finance policy

September 2022

See coverage in Investments & Pensions Europe (IPE), ESG News, European Pensions, AM Watch, Responsible Investor.

New research suggests that despite many pension funds’ leading efforts in climate stewardship of investment portfolio companies, European pension funds do not appear to be engaging proactively on emerging efforts by EU and UK policymakers to create sustainable and climate finance related policy. At the same time, a number of industry associations representing the pensions sector are cautious toward or opposing developing policy.

The analysis maps out the sustainable finance policy engagement of the 25 largest pension funds in Europe (by total assets), alongside 10 national pension fund associations and PensionsEurope, which represents the pension fund industry at the EU level.

As outlined by the goals of the Paris Agreement and emphasized by the IPCC’s sixth assessment released in 2022, transitioning to net-zero and climate-resilient economies requires the shift of capital flows away from carbon-intensive activities. The last few years have seen a significant increase in interest by policymakers globally to implement policies that regulate the financial sector and tackle climate-related financial risk.

The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance was launched as thesector’s commitment to transition its investment portfolios in line with the Paris Agreement. The Alliance has recognized that, in order to meet its fiduciary duty to manage risks and achieve target returns, it needs to advocate and engage on industry action and public policies in support of a low carbon transition.

However, InfluenceMap finds that only 4 out of the 25 funds and 5 of the 10 national associations have shown meaningful engagement with sustainable finance policy. Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, the Dutch fund Pensioenfonds Metaal en Techniek (PMT), and UK-based funds, Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and BT Pension Scheme (BTPS), stand out as the more positive advocates for ambitious sustainable finance policies; while the UK’s PLSA stands out amongst the associations.

PensionsEurope represents national associations of pensions funds at the EU level. In 2020, PensionsEurope’s members amounted to 100,000 pension funds in 21 countries, or the equivalent of €4.6 trillion assets. 9 of the 25 funds assessed have links to national industry associations members of PensionsEurope, while an additional 2 funds have hold direct memberships. PensionsEurope has actively engaged on sustainable finance policy, mostly offering mixed positions and cautioning against a prescriptive approach to regulatory intervention in this area.

Correction, 29/10/2022: The report has been amended to reflect that USS is a signatory to the Climate Action 100+ initiative, and that AMF Pension is a member of the NZAOA.

About InfluenceMap

InfluenceMap is a non-profit think tank providing objective and evidence-based analysis of how companies and financial institutions are impacting the climate and biodiversity crises. Our company profiles and other content are used extensively by a range of actors including investors, the media, NGOs, policymakers, and the corporate sector. InfluenceMap does not advocate or take positions on government policy. All our assessments are made against accepted benchmarks, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Our content is open source and free to view and use (


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This is the first comprehensive stock take of Europe’s largest pension schemes and their associations, and their actions on net zero. And while it is encouraging to see some good leadership in the UK, overall the picture painted is not good enough if we are to tackle the climate emergency, and the risks to the savings of millions of people in the UK and Europe. That is why our governments must regulate for a net zero financial sector and wider economy in order to limit warming to 1.5˚C. It’s why pension funds must respond to the millions of members who want their money to tackle and not cause the climate emergency.

Tony Burdon, CEO at Make My Money Matter