AUSTRIA - Niederösterreichische Vorsorgekasse, a two-year-old Austrian pension fund serving 100,000 employees, has hired GES Investment Services for socially responsible investment consulting.

According to Stockholm-based GES, NÖVK’s investments are being screened to see if they meet SRI criteria. The SRI criteria follow the ten principles of the UN’s Global Compact. These principles cover human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

According to its website, NÖVK’s current asset allocation entails 55% in bonds, 21% in real estate, 20% in alternative investments and five percent in cash.

GES managing partner Henrik af Donner said that for those investments, particularly bonds, that did not meet the criteria, GES would recommend that NÖVK exclude the issuers from its investment process.

NÖVK could then engage in a dialogue with these companies to persuade them to respect the criteria, he said.

Launched as a defined contribution scheme in 2003, NÖVK has accumulated €11m in assets to date.

The fund’s main shareholders are Austrian regional bank NÖ Hypo-Bank and local insurer Niederösterreichische Versicherung. NÖVK’s assets are managed by the Austrian bank.

The fund aims to provide a return of between 3% and 6% per annum. Due to the current level of interest rates, it does not see a return of more than 6% as realistic.

NÖVK, an open fund, says it serves employees at the lower Austrian state government, the city of Salzburg and numerous companies in the state. Its potential market is estimated at 520,000 employees at 72,000 firms in the state.