A large majority of Swedes believe their national pension funds should take account of environment and ethics in investment management, but people in the Nordic country are divided about whether this has much effect, according to a new survey.

The poll, conducted by opinion research firm Kantar Sifo for AP7 – the largest of Sweden’s AP funds – showed 77% of respondents saying “yes” to the question of whether the national funds should consider environment and ethics in the management of pensions money, according to AP7.

However, when asked about the degree to which they believed pension funds could contribute to sustainable company management, social sustainability and environmental sustainability – three separate questions in the poll – respondents expressing views were mostly negative or cautious.

On the question of whether the pension funds could achieve sustainable company management – for example by counteracting short-termism or corruption – 42% of respondents said they thought the funds could have no or very little effect here, against 32% saying they believed the funds could have a big or very large impact in that regard.

Mikael Lindh Hök, the SEK855bn (€79.5bn) pension fund’s communications strategist, said in a blog on AP7’s website: “The results from the two questions in the survey show that there is a desire for the pension funds to get involved and take sustainability into account, but a split picture of how much can be achieved.”

Taking sustainability into account and creating returns was in line with the legislation behind the AP funds, he said. Sweden’s Public Pension Funds (AP Funds) Act states that the funds must “[…] manage the funds in an exemplary manner through responsible investments and responsible ownership”, he said.

Lindh Hök said that since the solutions to the global problems were neither quick nor easy, it was understandable that there was an unclear picture of capital markets’ ability to achieve results that had real effects on companies’ emissions and working conditions.

“Pension companies and the capital industry will not be able to address the challenges in the world on their own, but can contribute together with politicians and market forces through laws, international agreements, innovation and customer demand,” he said.

Capital could act in this regard via ownership control as well as by directing capital flows, the strategist said.

Kantar Sifo conducted the survey in May this year via 1,000 online interviews.

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