Oxford University is planning to divest all fossil fuel holdings from its £3.4bn (€3.8bn) endowment fund.

It has also asked Oxford University Endowment Management (OUem) – which runs the Oxford Endowment Fund (OEF) on behalf of the university and a number of colleges – to request evidence of net zero carbon business plans across their portfolios from fund managers.

Furthermore, the fund’s investment committee will include a new member, with both experience of endowment management and a focus on climate-conscious investment.

The resolution was passed by Congregation – the university’s governing body – and followed a lengthy campaign by student bodies, supported by 79 senior university figures.

Since 2007, OUem’s investment in the energy sector has fallen from around 8.5% to 2.6% of the OEF portfolio. This includes renewable energy, with only 0.6% of the fund now in fossil fuel extractors.

There are also substantial investments in climate change solutions and in sustainability.

The university’s investment approach is based on its own academic research on climate-conscious business practices, the Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investment.

These provide a framework for engagement between climate-conscious investors and companies across the world, helping them assess whether investments are compatible with transition to a more stable climate and the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Sandra Robertson, CEO and CIO of OUem, said: “OUem has been actively managing the OEF over the past decade to ensure that, as an investor, we are part of the solution to climate change and sustainability.”

She added: “The fund is a globally diversified portfolio of investments, chosen to make returns over the long term in a sustainable manner. We will continue our deep engagement with the investment groups in the fund, and further encourage them to move to a net zero world across their portfolios of companies.”

The university is also developing an ambitious environmental sustainability strategy, giving further impetus to its commitment to cut carbon emissions, to be published later this year.

PPF unveils diversity & inclusion strategy

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has today announced the launch of its first Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategy.

It sets out the fund’s ambitions, challenges and future plans as well as how progress is to be measured over the next five years, reflecting also on the achievements made so far, the PPF said.

The fund said its new strategy aims to encourage a more diverse and inclusive culture, valuing people’s differences and individuality across the organisation.

“The PPF prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive employer and aims to become an employer of choice, having the right people working to ensure the diverse needs of a growing membership are met.”

Katherine Easter, chief people officer, said: “We will continue to challenge and change mindsets internally and externally and are introducing a number of initiatives to achieve this including becoming a disability leader by the end of 2020/21.”

Over the next few years emphasis will be on building the PPF’s diverse and inclusive culture at all levels of the organisation, with a target that 85% of staff will agree to the PPF being a diverse employer that supports inclusion, it noted.

Barnett Waddingham survey finds 51% of DB funds are now closed to future accrual

Over 50% of the UK’s largest schemes are now closed to the future accrual of benefits, up from 33% five years ago, according to new research from Barnett Waddingham.

The new report from the consultancy analyses private sector defined benefit (DB) schemes in the UK with assets worth more than £1bn, based on data up to 30 September 2019.

This increase in DB closures to future accrual comes as schemes have taken steps to manage the spiralling cost of DB pension provision, Barnett Waddingham has indicated.

The proportion has increased by an average of around 5% every year, so this year’s 2.5% increase could signal a slowing in the rate of closures, it added.

The firm said that only 3% of final salary schemes remain open to new members, with the vast majority of companies offering defined contribution (DC) benefits to their new employees.

One of these schemes, John Lewis, announced in May last year that it would be closing to future accrual in April 2020.

And as DB schemes reduce in ”usefulness as a tool to reward current employees”, the focus will naturally shift towards reaching the “endgame”, the firm added.

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