Pensions fund reforms set to boost social investment

The Government has announced that it intends to act on Law Commission recommendations to clarify and strengthen the laws on pension funds and social investment.

In the final response to the Pension Funds and Social Investment report, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, Guy Opperman, and Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, agreed to implement reforms recommended by the Commission which could help unlock more ethical investments.

And alongside this, the Ministers have also pledged to consider what more could be done to increase the consideration of the wider impacts of pension investments.

Law Commissioner Stephen Lewis said:

“This move by Government could help unlock billions of pounds of investment which not only has the potential to do well financially, but also do good at the same time.

“Implementing our recommendations will now bring much needed legal clarity to fund managers and give scheme members a chance to have their say in ethical investments, should they wish to.”

Saving for a better future

The majority of employees in the UK are now saving into a pension and by 2030 the amount invested in defined contribution schemes is expected to total some £1.68 trillion.

This raises questions about how the new pension assets are to be invested and whether at least a proportion could be invested for the wider social good.

In November 2016, the Government asked the Law Commission to look at how far pension schemes may or should consider issues of social impact when making investment decisions. And to identify any legal or regulatory barriers preventing them from doing so.

The Pension Funds and Social Investment report was published in June 2017.

It identified steps which could be taken by the Government and regulators to lift barriers to social investment. This included:

  • The law be amended so that pension funds have to report on their policies on evaluating social impact, considering members’ ethical concerns and exercising stewardship powers.
  • The Financial Conduct Authority should issue guidance about how contract-based pension providers can take into account non-financial factors (such as social impact) when making investment decisions.
  • The Pensions Regulator and Financial Conduct Authority should consider providing further guidance on how pension schemes can manage illiquid investments in their funds, such as investment in infrastructure.
  • Government should consider taking steps to address barriers to consolidation of defined contribution pension schemes so they are more able to invest in illiquid assets.
  • Government should encourage pension providers and the pensions industry to work towards devising a set of terminology around social investment to help pension savers understand where their money is going.

Now in a response published on the Government has agreed to work towards implementing our reforms and pledged to continue “to work with the financial services industry and regulators in growing the positive impact of pensions in the UK”.