In order to stimulate responsible investment and to realise changes together, PGGM plays an active role in different networks and partnerships.
With our investment team, we aim for risk-adjusted returns in the long term. The risk and return on these investments is largely determined by well-functioning markets, economies, sectors and companies. In order to realise a sustainable financial return on our global investments, and due to the exposure to multiple markets and the influence of environmental, social and good corporate governance factors (ESG), we regard this as an important part of its obligation to promote capital markets and improvement of ESG practices. These investments form a cross-section of globally-available investment opportunities. Our activities in the field of market engagement and stimulation are aimed at improvement of mandatory and voluntary standards and practices in the main markets in which we invest.
On 20 December 2018, 70 pension funds, including most of PGGM’s clients, signed the ‘Internationaal Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Beleggen’ (International Socially Responsible Investment (IMVB)) covenant. In 2019, PGGM supported its clients in the implementation of the IMVB convention. PGGM has defined the extent to which clients already comply with the covenant and where there is still improvement potential. Different projects have also been started to ensure that clients comply with all requirements of the IMVB covenant, including a screening method for the listed share portfolio based on the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs), a new study into the preferences of the PFZW participants relating to responsible investment and the development of ESG policy on theme-based priority areas. PGGM also developed the benchmark for the IMVB covenant for PFZW and BPF Schilders.
In addition, PGGM made an active contribution to cooperation within the covenant. For example, PGGM played the role of rapporteur within the Instrumentarium working group of the IMVB covenant. The Instrumentarium consists of model texts that pension funds can use in policy, contracts with external service providers, monitoring and reporting. The Instrumentarium was published in December 2019. PGGM also actively participates in the ‘deep track’ of the IMVB covenant, in which pension funds work with social organisations, trade unions and the government on concrete engagement cases. The first engagement case started in 2019 with a mining company. A second case was also selected in the palm oil sector.
Platform Living Wage Financials
In October 2019, PGGM joined the Platform Living Wage Financials (PLWF). Eleven, primarily Dutch, investors work together in the PLWF. They ask the companies in which they invest to make progress towards paying the employees in their supply chain a living wage. A living wage is a fundamental human right. Entering into the dialogue with companies on a living wage is one of the ways in which PGGM realises its engagement programme in the priority area of Human Rights. The members of the platform are currently in discussion about living wages with 44 companies. In September 2019, PLFW was presented with the Active Ownership Project of the Year award by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
PGGM is an active participant in the management, committees and working groups and one of the founders of Eumedion. Eumedion represents our interests and those of our clients and other institutional investors in the fields of corporate governance and sustainability. By conducting talks with relevant policymakers and exerting an influence on relevant Dutch and European laws and regulations, it works to promote good corporate governance and sustainability policy. In order to promote and accommodate engaged and responsible shareholdership, Eumedion drew up the Dutch Stewardship Code. Such partnerships make our efforts in the field of engagement in the home market highly effective and efficient. We welcome the stimulation of a constructive dialogue between ourselves, like-minded organisations and the Dutch listed companies. We aim for similar partnerships in all other major capital markets, in order to increase the impact we aim to achieve with our investments and stewardship activities.
Japan Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (FEFTA)
On 8 October 2019, the Japanese Ministry of Finance announced new proposals entailing important changes in the current Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (FEFTA) regime. Although we sympathised with these in as far as the changes were intended to strengthen the country’s national security, we took the view that in the form announced, they would be highly damaging to the Japanese capital market and corporate governance.
Together with the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA), PGGM and other foreign investors expressed their deep concern regarding the direction and content of these proposed changes and had contacts with the Ministry of Finance. Although parts of the new regulations required urgent clarification, the changes appeared to mean, among other things, that under the new threshold, investors such as PGGM will have to submit a ‘pre-acquisition notice’ if they intend to acquire 1% or more of a listed company in a restricted sector, while this threshold was previously set at 10%. Foreign investors intending to influence the management with regard to a number of governance or corporate issues would also have to submit prior notice of their intentions. This could severely restrict our efforts to communicate on matters such as corporate governance or climate change with the companies in Japan in which we participate. The Ministry of Finance entered into a constructive dialogue with us and was very helpful in providing greater clarity regarding the changes, among other things providing an assurance that the changes are fully consistent with the Japanese Stewardship Code. The Ministry of Finance also honoured a request from the market for proper consultation. We have been assured that PGGM will be exempted and can continue its engagement programme in Japan. The intention is that the altered FEFTA will enter into force in May 2020.
Technical Expert Group of the European Union
PGGM has actively contributed to the design of new European regulations for greening the financial sector. PGGM represents the Dutch pensions sector as a member of the Technical Expert Group (TEG). In this group, we worked on matters including the design of a new classification of ‘green’ economic activities (taxonomy). The objective of this classification is to increase the comparability and investment opportunities of sustainable economic activities. The TEC will present its final report on the taxonomy in March 2020. The TEG will remain in operation as an advisor of the implementation of the taxonomy until September 2020. In September 2020, the TEG will transfer its tasks to a permanent EU Platform for Sustainable Financing (still to be formed).
Senior Advisor Responsible Investment
Team Responsible Investment
PGGM, an important player in Brussels
‘I joined PGGM five years ago. What originally attracted me was the emphasis on sustainability. In government, where I had worked on European financial and economic dossiers for ten years, sustainability barely got off the ground. I had and still have the feeling that at PGGM, I can really contribute towards a better world.
I thought that with my change of job, I would be leaving European work behind me, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Two years ago, Brussels put forward an ambitious plan to “green” the European financial sector. A European Expert Group (TEG) was set up to assist the Commission in the development of the plans. And I was asked to become a member of the TEG on behalf of the Dutch pensions sector - and as the only Dutch representative.
Our main mandate was to develop a shared definition of environmentally-friendly activities that contribute towards realisation of the Paris climate agreement. For almost two years, we worked with 35 experts from different professional fields on a classification tool for “green” economic activities - a taxonomy. A “green” encyclopaedia. We also wrote an advisory report for climate-related benchmarks, better sustainability reports and a European standard for green bonds. The taxonomy is a tool for sustainability reports and financial products. The taxonomy can also help companies in the development of sustainable investments and activities, in order to make the transition to a more sustainable economy.
PGGM and the Dutch pensions sector play an important role in Brussels. That’s what I discovered in the past two years in the TEG. As a pensions sector, we are constructive, actively work together on shared positions and we have the largest invested pension capital in the EU. If we want, we can make a difference, with input in Brussels and by using the taxonomy to make our investments still more sustainable.’