The €156bn healthcare scheme PFZW and the pension fund for the agricultural sector, Landbouw, performed best on sustainability last year, according to the Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO). 

The funds came joint first after being checked against VBDO’s sustainability benchmark, which focuses on governance, policy, implementation and accountability, the organisation said.

VBDO, which assessed the investments of the 49 largest pension funds in the Netherlands, said that ABP, Unilever’s Dutch scheme Progress and PNO Media ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively, with the pension funds of ABN AMRO and KLM coming last in the ranking.

According to Jacqueline Duiker, interim project maanger at VBDO, governance is gradually increasing in prominence as all pension funds are now discussing the issue of sustainably investing at least once a year.

She noted that all the pension funds have a sustainable investment policy in place, aimed at meeting international standards and guidelines, such as the UN’s Global Compact.

However, she added that pension funds still fell short with the most important criterion, namely implementation of the policy.

“Although pension funds are often able to explain what they don’t want, resulting in exclusion, ESG integration and engagement, they still fall short of positive selection and impact investing.”

According to VBDO, pension funds increasingly offer transparancy about their sustainability credentials, “albeit not always monitored by an external auditor”.

During the presentation of the survey, Joanne Kellermann, out-going director of pension supervision at regulator De Nederlandsche Bank, underlined the importance of the sustainability benchmark.

“Nobody likes to be last on the list,” she said, adding that pension funds’ participants could also benefit from the VBDO’s findings, “as they enabled them to check their scheme’s performance”.