UK – International environmental organisation, Friends of the Earth, has attacked the UK government for denying information on socially responsible pensions to the millions of people who will be able to take out stakeholder pensions following next week’s launch.

The group says the government’s stakeholder guide fails to disclose that individuals can also obtain socially responsible pensions.

However, Friends of the Earth points out that recent surveys have shown that around three quarters of people in the UK believe that pension funds should use their influence to encourage companies to be socially responsible.

“The government should be doing much more to encourage companies to become more socially responsible. Surveys show that the British public want pension funds to encourage companies to behave more ethically. The least the government can do is to provide details about socially responsible pensions in its new guide,” says Simon McRae, investment campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

UK stakeholder pensions will become available in April, in an attempt to provide private pensions for low-income earners and those not covered by existing schemes.
In June 2000 the government amended the Pensions Act to require fund managers to tell members whether they considered the ethical, social or environmental impact of the companies they invested in.

“We see the introduction of the stakeholder pension as a socially responsible act. However, the lack of information on the socially responsible options available to investors, at the point of advice, mars an otherwise good scheme. Members of company pension schemes have this information easily at hand, yet stakeholder pension investors seem to be denied this fundamental piece of information when they need it most – when they are signing on the dotted line,” says Lee Coates, director of independent financial advisers Ethical Investors Group.