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Dutch criticised for ethical failings

NETHERLANDS - Dutch pension funds lack transparency in involving social and environmental issues in their investment policies, while the locally-listed companies are less “socially responsible” than their French and UK counterparts, according to two reports.

The Dutch Society of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) said if pension funds became more transparent it would boost investment in sustainable, or green, companies.

VBDO found that only 23 of the 73 funds it examined mentioned ethical or social responsible issues in their 2003annual reports. Only nine of them provided figures about their sustainable investments, the society added.

Websites hardly contain relevant information either, according to VBDO, as only eight are showing how their scheme raise social and environmental subjects for discussion.

Piet Sprengers, a director at VBDO, gave as a reason: “They might prefer to hide their lack of interest, or they don’t want their members to ask them to pay more attention to the issues.”

The organisation, however, has signalled a positive trend as more pension funds were taking action against listed companies, the VBDO said. However, Sprengers said: “The pension schemes remain way behind of listed companies in investing in sustainability.”

But even the listed companies are not seen as keeping up with their international peers. Novethic, an information provider on ethical issues and subsidiary of Caisse de depots, a French savings bank, said companies listed in the Dutch stock exchange are less “socially responsible” than their French and UK counterparts according to its new system called Rating Planets.

Rating Planets was created by Novethic in collaboration with US fund information provider Morningstar and Vigeo, a rating agency, to assess a portfolio’ s socially responsible investments (SRI) profile. The rating system can award up to five planets, for the best portfolio.
Companies in the Dutch index were awarded two Planets while those in the Belgian, Danish, Italian and Spanish indices gained only one.

Companies in the French blue-chip CAC 40index Dow Jones UK Titans 50 index, which looks at the largest UK-listed companies, had on average four Planets.

“On average and across most industries, large French and UK corporations are more socially responsible than many of their peers,” Novethix said in a statement.



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