Photo credit: Chiel Koolhaas on Skitterphoto.com
On January 25, Tobias Wiß (Johannes Kepler University Linz) and I will be presenting our paper “Pension Funds and Sustainable Investment: Comparing Regulation in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands” (with Karen Anderson, University College Dublin) during the Netspar International Pension Workshop in Leiden.
Our paper reports the first findings of a Netspar-funded research project on the regulation of sustainable investment by funded pension schemes. In this study, we use insights from comparative political economy and financialization studies to direct attention to the institutional underpinnings of pension schemes’ investment behaviour. The starting point of the paper is the assumption that regulation either incentivizes or discourages sustainable by pension funds. We furthermore assume that the type of regulation present in a pension system is influenced by institutional characteristics, such as the history of the pension system, the capitalization of the second pillar, the vehicles for pension provision, and the mode of governance. The paper employs a broad conceptualization of regulation, incorporating 1) national legislation, 2) regulatory activities by supervisory agencies and 3) self-regulation by the pension sector itself.
In all three countries, there is a growing sense that sustainability is related to (positive) return and that pension schemes, as other groups of politics, the society and the economy, need to take on responsibility for future sustainability, especially in times of climate change. Nonetheless, we do find substantial differences with regard to the regulation of sustainable investment by pension funds: highly developed in the Netherlands, moderately developed in Denmark and underdeveloped in Germany. In none of the cases, legal requirements for sustainable investment exist. Pension investments in all three cases are guided by the prudent person rule, although other rules may exist (e.g. ban on cluster munition in the Netherlands, quantitative restrictions in Germany). The Netherlands stands out as the only case, where 1) the industry has initiated self-regulation on sustainable investment and 2) where the regulator is developing a more all-encompassing attitude towards financial risk, that for instance also includes climate risk. Finally, we find that fund-level activities toward ESG investments are considerable in the Netherlands and Denmark and rather moderate in Germany.
In the coming months, we’ll be revising our paper before it will be published as a Netspar working paper. Keep on an eye on this website or our project page on ResearchGate for any updates.