Swiss pension funds will start to engage with large listed companies on biodiversity and nature protection from next year through the Ethos Engagement Pools Switzerland, two new themes introduced into the initiative.

The Ethos Engagement Pools Switzerland, which includes 179 pension schemes, has renewed topics including climate change, governance, working conditions/respect for human rights, particularly in supply chains, and standardised environmental and social reporting, it said in a statement.

It will also focus on promoting diversity and equal pay within companies.

Ethos – the Swiss foundation for sustainable development which is composed of 252 pension funds and public utility foundations – will conduct dialogues with the 150 largest listed companies in Switzerland representing 99% of the market capitalisation on the SPI index, it added.

The Ethos Engagement Pool International (EEP International), which includes 111 pension funds, has decided to keep the themes for engagement, including climate change, biodiversity, human rights and workers’ rights, and governance, unchanged in 2024.

Collective engagement initiatives include the promotion of the payment of a decent living wage in the US and fighting plastic pollution, it added.

Vincent Kaufmann at Ethos

Vincent Kaufmann at Ethos

In July, EEP International also launched a direct engagement campaign for “credible net zero strategies”, targeting the 10 carbon-intensive companies to pressure them to set emissions reduction targets validated by science, and to align their investments with a 1.5°C scenario, it said.

In an interview with IPE, Ethos’ chief executive officer Vincent Kaufmann said that sustainability-related items on the agenda of annual general meetings (AGMs) will continue to increase, as Swiss listed companies will have to submit sustainability reports to a shareholder vote from next year.

Compensation remains one of the most contested topics at AGMs of Swiss companies, he said. Last year, a dialogue was conducted with main greenhouse gas emitters to force them to act in line with their climate commitments, Ethos said.

The number of members of EEP Switzerland rose from 167 to 179 over the past year, representing assets under management of around CHF346bn. EEP International reached 111 members, 11 more than a year ago, with total assets of more than CHF280bn.

Engagement is one of the pillars of the Swiss Stewardship Code outlined by the Swiss Asset Management Association (AMAS) and the group Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF).

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