Pension funds routinely invest in fossil fuel companies and other industries that harm the environment. Forcing change isn’t easy, but there are things you can do
2 June 2021
I GENERALLY regard myself as an environmentally conscious consumer. I stopped eating meat years ago and I travel by bike or public transport when possible. I won’t bore you with my other virtues, but suffice it to say that if there is a sustainable lifestyle box, I probably tick it.
To be honest, I might as well not bother. I also own stakes in some of the world’s most environmentally destructive industries: fossil fuels, mining, petrochemicals, cement, steel, aluminium and cars. Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Rio Tinto are just some of the companies in my portfolio, and there are almost certainly many more I don’t know about. The greenhouse gas savings I make through my lifestyle choices are dwarfed by the ones generated by my support for these companies and industries.
I didn’t actively purchase stakes in them. Somebody did it for me. I probably could have stopped them, but I didn’t. If you have a personal pension plan, a similar story is probably true of you, too.
Now I am trying to get out of my investments, but I can’t. Not easily, anyway. “It’s not like veganism, where you can just make a choice and go to the shop. It requires a lot of persistence to do this,” says Michael Kind of UK pressure group ShareAction. What’s more, as I investigated how to extricate myself from my pension swamp, it became clear that doing so might actually do more harm than good.
Pensions are big business. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) calculates that the UK workforce is sitting on a pension pot of $3.6 …