Large pension funds are not just financial giants; they also serve as catalysts for climate action. In Denmark, these pension funds are not only influential but have also committed to reducing emissions as outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The research of Dr Paul Klumpes and Jesper Lindgaard Christensen of Aalborg University focuses on the globe’s major pension funds and why they are crucial in the fight against climate change.
The project was funded by the Denmark Government funding body Independent Research Fund Denmark.
Image Source: Adobe Stock Images / Summit Art Creations
Hello and welcome to Research Pod. Thank you for listening and joining us today.
In this episode we are exploring the research of Dr Paul Klumpes and Jesper Lindgaard Christensen of Aalborg University on the world of climate change reporting practices, focusing on the globe’s major pension funds and why they are crucial in the fight against climate change.
The project was funded by the Denmark Government funding body “Independent Research Fund Denmark” .
Large pension funds are not just financial giants; they also serve as catalysts for climate action. The research was conducted in Denmark, where these pension funds are not only influential but have also committed to reducing emissions as outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. They’re also subject to international climate risk reporting guidelines and EU and Danish climate risk regulations.
This podcast summarises research undertaken into three crucial areas: changes in Danish pension fund-reporting, alignment with reporting standards, and factors influencing this alignment.
First, let’s explore the changes occurring in Danish pension fund reporting. How have these practices evolved over time, especially in response to regulatory changes and the growing importance of Environmental, Social, and Governance issues?
The development of climate change and ESG engagement since 2016 has been remarkable. Stakeholder pressure, improved data quality, ethics, and regulatory influences have been key drivers.
The researchers found that Danish pension funds have been adapting to regulatory pressures through organizational changes and capacity building. It’s a testament to their need for unique strategies to navigate the ever-evolving financial landscape.
But a challenge looms: the need for adequate human capital and uniform business models to meet the upcoming sustainability reporting requirements. This is something the Danish pension funds should be aware of, and they foresee needs for further upscaling of ESG-competences in society broadly and among themselves.
Now, let’s look at alignment.
How closely are pension funds from Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, and the USA aligning their climate risk reporting with mandatory requirements and voluntary guidelines?
The researchers examined voluntary engagement practices of 124 globally large pension funds across the 7 countries. Over time, there has been a significant increase in their commitment to climate action in the five years following the issue of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures in 2016.
What’s interesting is that the variations in climate risk engagement and reporting are shaped by the financial and governance characteristics of these funds, the institutional development in their countries, cultural factors, and whether their governments have policies mandating pension savings.
In the final segment, the authors explored the factors that influence alignment of reporting to TCFD standards. Is the degree of alignment in climate risk reporting influenced by common ownership or business relationships with other asset owners? And are there any factors related to the country, social context, or financial environment at play?
For the sample of defined contribution (accumulation benefit type) pension funds, the authors found that the degree of climate risk engagement is negatively associated with the extent to which the investment portfolio is outsourced to external managers. By contrast, for defined benefit (final salary benefit type) pension it is instead negatively associated with the percentage of “risky” asset allocation in the investment portfolio (i.e. non‐standard “brown” investments such as private equity etc).
The authors also discovered that geographical location and organizational type of asset owners are closely linked to engagement with ESG and climate risk reporting.
When it comes to asset management firms to which pension funds often delegate their investment portfolios, the authors found that they adhere to responsible investment principles, particularly in Europe. However, only a minority of these firms take an additional step to engage with climate risk through actions like membership of other climate lobbying organisations or by voluntarily complying with other reporting guidelines.
In conclusion, this journey through climate change reporting practices and engagement among large pension funds has shown us the intricate web of factors influencing their actions. It’s a world where political, cultural, and organizational forces converge, shaping the future of climate action.
These findings are not just insights; they hold the key to future climate action, ESG integration, and reporting standards within the financial sector.
That’s all for this episode. Thanks for listening. Be sure to stay subscribed to ResearchPod for more of the latest science. See you again soon.