According to pension regulator De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), the Dutch government cannot tell pension funds to focus solely on achieving the best returns for their members. Pension funds have the freedom to prioritise other goals such as impact or sustainability.

“The responsibility for their investment policy is prima with pension funds themselves,” DNB said in response to a motion that was supported by a majority of members of parliament (MPs) in a vote on Tuesday.

The motion, tabled by Thierry Aartsen, an MP of the liberal/conservative VVD party, and supported by a coalition of mostly right-wing parties, argued “it is not the primary task of pension funds to invest in an idealistic or activist way.”

Instead, funds should focus solely on “realising a pension that guarantees purchasing power”, the motion continued.

The parties supporting the motion want pension minister Carola Schouten, who is likely to be replaced soon, once a new government coalition is installed later this month, to investigate how supervisory frameworks can be amended “to make this a starting point of the investment policies of all pension funds”.

DNB, however, said that according to the current pension law, pension funds are in charge of their own investment policies. Part of their current obligations is that they explain in their annual reports how their investment policies take into consideration the impact of their investments on the environment, the climate and human rights.

Pension funds were puzzled about what exactly Aartsen meant by “activist” investing.

PME, the pension fund for workers in the technology sector, is considered one of the forerunners when it comes to more sustainable investing. However, the fund’s chair, Eric Uijen, does not consider his fund an “activist investor”, he told financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad.

“We are keen to invest for a good return in a world that runs on renewable energy and think that offers a better outcome than continuing down a road that is a dead-end anyway,” he said.

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