Your pension and the planet: what you need to know.

Most of us view pensions as a distant and complex element of our financial planning. However, your pension represents a substantial investment sum, and its allocation profoundly impacts various sectors and issues, for better or for worse. With approximately £3 trillion invested in pensions in the UK alone, directing these funds towards ethical and environmentally positive sectors can significantly benefit our environment and society.

What Makes a Pension Ethical?

An ethical pension means more than just avoiding negative investment consequences. It’s about proactively supporting sectors that contribute positively to society, like healthcare and sustainable energy. Ethical pension funds operate on strict criteria, avoiding investments in harmful sectors like arms, tobacco, and fossil fuels, and instead, channelling your money into companies that uphold social and environmental values​​.

Providers and Their Policies

The following workplace pension schemes offer an ethical fund option:

Among the other providers:

  • Penfold have a sustainable pension plan option but you would need to check with them whether it is available on your workplace scheme
  • Scottish Widows appear to be applying ethical investment principles across some of their funds. See here. Check with them what options are open to your staff
  • Aegon appear to be applying ethical investment principles across some of their funds. See here. Check with them what options are open to your staff
  • Royal London have a range of sustainable pension funds. Check with them what options are open to your staff

It’s vital to understand what each provider means by “ethical” or “sustainable” and whether their policies align with your values​​. For a wider explanation of what makes an ‘ethical’ pension and reviews of the mainstream pension providers, see this Ethical Consumer review

The terminology used detailing pension funds can be misleading, with terms like “sustainable,” “responsible,” and “ESG” often used interchangeably yet meaning different things. Decoding these terms and understanding the actual policies behind them is crucial. Some funds may not be as ethical as they claim, so doing your homework is essential​​.

What to consider when choosing a pension provider?

  • Investment Sectors: Ensure your pension does not support industries detrimental to the environment, such as fossil fuels, or unethical sectors such as armaments​​.
  • Transparency: Opt for a provider that is open about where your money is invested. Lack of transparency can be a significant red flag​​.
  • Seek Advice: Consulting with an ethical financial adviser can provide personalised guidance tailored to your values and financial goals​​, this is particularly useful if you wish to invest in specific projects. The Ethical Investment Association is a good place to start in the UK. 

As more people become aware of the impact of their investments, the demand for ethical pensions is likely to increase. This demand can drive more pension providers to adopt stricter ethical standards and offer more transparent and genuinely ethical investment options. Opting for an ethical pension is among the most powerful financial decisions you can make, allowing you to ensure your investments contribute positively to the planet and support initiatives that directly impact ethical, low carbon, and climate-friendly projects.