Second German pension fund thinking to apply responsible investment charter
GERMANY - The professional pension fund (Versorgungswerk) for chartered accountants in the German province of North Rhine-Westphalia (WPV) is thinking to adopt the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).
Hans-Wilhelm Korfmacher, managing director at WPV, told IPE: "We are looking into it, but we want to wait until after the catalogue has been reviewed, as it seems the criteria is likely to be tightened up."
Korfmacher said the UNPRI was "a good starting point", but added that the Versorgungswerk's board would have to look into how the principles could be applied to the fund's portfolio.
"We have to bear in mind that these criteria have been established mainly from an Anglo-American point of view, with a focus on equities, which is not the main issue for us in Germany, where we have large bond exposures," he said.
He said he expected the WPV to make a final decision on the UNPRI this autumn.
So far, the only Versorgungswerk to embrace the UNPRI criteria has been the Bayerische Versorgungskammer (BVK).
But Korfmacher stressed that, for some years now, the WPV had focused on sustainability in parts of its portfolio by investing in such things as renewable energy and student loan programmes.
The fund is also looking into ethical issues associated with investing in agricultural commodities.
For the WPV, Korfmacher said it might make more sense to start with less strict criteria and then become more stringent, as it was "impossible to achieve everything in a single step".
He also pointed out that divesting from all weapon-exporting countries would also exclude Germany as an investment, an "impossibility" for the scheme.
But Korfmacher stressed that it was important to increase awareness of responsible investment within the industry and ensure it was incorporated into investment processes.
"Sustainability is an important issue that institutional investors have to consider in their investment decisions," he said.