NETHERLANDS - Dutch pension funds are increasingly investing in sustainability strategies, with larger schemes taking the lead, the Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) has said.

Industry-wide funds lead the field in sustainability, with the €103bn healthcare scheme PFZW topping the list, the VBDO found in an annual survey among 50 pension funds with over 13m participants.

PFZW's asset manager PGGM recently argued that responsible investment had boosted returns by as much as 17%, citing its responsible equity portfolio launched three years ago as proof.

The corporate pension fund of bancassurer SNS Reaal, the €238bn civil service scheme ABP and PNO Media came second, third and fourth respectively, VBDO said.

According to Giuseppe van der Helm, the VBDO's director, the improvement has been continuing in all asset classes, perticularly in property and government bonds since VBDO started its yearly survey in 2007.

"However, pension funds can make significant progress by focusing on their largest asset classes," he noted.

VBDO also found that knowledge of sustainability among assets managers was on the rise.

"This bodes well for the future, as they are able to develop better instruments for the implementation of sustainable investments within specific asset classes," Van der Helm pointed out.

Although VBDO found that pension funds were increasingly communicating about their sustainability policy, they were falling short in transparency about the policy, it said.

The survey has been conducted among 21 company schemes, 26 industry-wide pension funds and 3 occupational pension funds.

The VBDO indicated that the survey did not look into the link between sustainable investment and return or into the assets invested in sustainability.