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Four Danish pension funds return to PRI, but two still unconvinced

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Four of Denmark’s biggest pension funds have once more become members of the UN-backed responsible investment organisation PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), after quitting the body in 2013 in protest at the way it was run.

But Industriens Pension and PensionDanmark – the two other major pension funds in the Nordic country that left the PRI at the same time – have not said they are re-joining.

In a joint statement, ATP, PFA, PKA and Sampension said they had decided to join the PRI again.

They said: “In 2013, the pension companies withdrew membership from the organisation, as it did not meet the basic requirements for management structure.”

The decision about resuming membership was made after three years of critical dialogue with PRI’s board, they said.

Ole Buhl, head of ESG at ATP, told IPE: “When we left in 2013, we stated a number of concerns, and what we have been evaluating is whether all those concerns have been met.”

He said ATP was now happy with the new governance of the PRI, even though it had not reverted to the old constitution but rather adjusted the new constitution it subsequently put in place.

Under the old framework, ATP and other investors were legal members of the organisation – which ATP preferred – but now their status is simply that of signatories.

“We are very happy, and sometimes you don’t get everything you ask for,” Buhl said.

The four Danish pension funds said PRI chairman Martin Skancke had listened to their criticism, and that the organisation had changed both policies and management structure, as well as increased the “visibility” of its plans and decisions.

“Thirdly, the board has been receptive of arguments in the ongoing dialogue with the Danish pension companies,” they said in the statement.

During the period when they were not part of the PRI, the four funds said they had complied with the UN-supported principles for responsible investments. 

Skancke said the organisation was delighted to welcome the four Danish pension funds back.

“We have had constructive informal discussions with them over the last several months and sought to explain how their governance concerns were addressed following our governance review, which was approved by more than 95% of signatories voting,” he said.

“This overwhelming support for the new governance structure and articles of association clearly demonstrated that signatories were pleased with and supportive of these changes.”

PensionDanmark, meanwhile, said the situation regarding the PRI had not changed.

Jens-Christian Stougaard, PensionDanmark’s senior vice-president for business development, analysis, public affairs and corporate social responsibility, said: “We have not had any direct discussions with the PRI since a meeting in November 2015.

“When we left the PRI in 2013, it was because we observed that the governance of PRI did not live up to the standards we expect. 

“If the PRI re-establishes the original principles of governance – for example, membership rights, having an AGM, etcetera – we will give serious consideration to re-joining.”

Until then, Stougaard said the pension fund would carry on with its efforts as an active and responsible investor across asset classes and geographies.

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