Seven of the largest pension and insurance providers in Switzerland have joined forces to create an association for sustainable and responsible investment.

The SVVK-ASIR was founded to help its members fulfil their “fiduciary duties” of including ESG criteria in their investments.

The first part of the acronym stands for the German name Schweizer Verein für verantwortungsbewusste Kapitalanlagen, the second for the French Association Suisse pour des investissements responsables.

The founding members include the first-pillar fund AHV, the public pension fund Publica, the pension fund for the canton of Zurich BVK, the pension plan of telecommunications company Swisscom (ComPlan), the pension fund of the postal service (PKPost), the pension fund of federal railways SBB (PKSBB) and the accident insurance fund Suva.

Together, they manage more than CHF150bn (€122bn) in assets.

Patrick Uelfeti, deputy CIO at Publica, was named president of the association, which is still looking for a managing director.

Uelfeti said the SVVK-ASIR was founded as a service provider to suit the “individual needs” of its founding members.

The new organisation will screen the portfolios of its members based on defined criteria, focusing on international companies rather than those based in Switzerland.

The SVVK-ASIR said it would begin engaging with those companies it deemed “critical”.

Uelfeti confirmed the organisation was looking for external specialists for screening and engagement activities.

The SVVK-ASIR will also be open to larger institutional investors such as retirement providers, compensation funds or insurers.

Swiss institutional investors have a tradition of engagement with respect to equity holdings.

In 1997, two Pensionskassen founded the shareholder engagement group Ethos, which focuses on engagement with Swiss companies.

Ethos has more than 100 members, most being from the private pension fund sector.