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Survey Suggests Swiss Pension Funds Need Sustainable Focus

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WWF Switzerland and ShareAction have distributed worrying research about Swiss pension funds. The survey published this week focuses on how pension funds in Switzerland use sustainability within their practices. In their report they show that many of the top 20 Swiss pension funds do not fully consider long-term environmental dangers, putting their beneficiaries’ savings at financial risk.

WWF, together with responsible investment charity ShareAction, has carried out a survey of the 20 largest Swiss pension funds. It analysed how far pension funds invest their beneficiaries’ money sustainably and whether they transparently provide them with information. The survey concludes that the majority of the 20 largest Swiss pension funds do not yet systematically consider sustainability criteria, such as climate change, in their investment decisions.

Sonia Hierzig, Research Officer at ShareAction and the report’s author, said: “We’re delighted to have co-produced the first ever survey of Swiss pension funds by Responsible Investment performance, together with WWF Switzerland. The results demonstrate that whilst the 20 funds we looked at do consider responsible investment, there’s a long way to go to adopt international best practice, particularly when it comes to transparency and climate risk management. Investing responsibly is entirely consistent with looking after beneficiaries’ interests – we hope that more Swiss funds will start to consider and integrate environmental social and governance risks into their investment strategies accordingly.”  

All 16 of the pension funds that participated in the survey do consider the topic of responsible investment, and 13 of those funds also have a relevant policy. However, the survey does show that there is still some way to go before Swiss pension funds exemplify international best practice in responsible investment. For example, only one pension fund has developed a strategy on the financial risks related to climate change. Transparency in relation to the actual holdings should also be increased, so that beneficiaries know how their money is invested and can take action when they disagree. Currently it’s rare to see information published that goes beyond the allocation of assets to different types of investments such as equities or bonds.

Britta Rendlen, Head of the Department for Sustainable Finance at WWF Switzerland explains environmental risks, such as climate change, are also often important financial risks for pension funds’ assets. She said: “Pension funds should consider environmental risks in their investment decisions. Responsible Investment is not only important for the environment but is also in the interests of beneficiaries.”

WWF and ShareAction recommend that pension funds should systematically consider responsible investment factors when they make investment decisions, and be open about how they do so.

Alongside impacts on climate change, this also includes resource management, labour conditions and wage plans, and other factors. Furthermore, WWF recommends that pension funds actively exercise their voting rights at companies in which they invest directly and engage in dialogue with those companies. Voting rights should be exercised in Switzerland, as well as abroad. Such a course of action implies a cultural change within Swiss pension funds.

Pension funds in Switzerland manage CHF 767 billion (USD 804 billion). The 20 largest funds represent around a third of this (CHF 281 billion, USD 287 billion) and were surveyed in this study. Pension funds are among the largest and most influential investor groups in Switzerland. As long-term shareholders they are able to directly influence the decisions of the companies in which they invest. Pension funds thus are among the key players when it comes to creating a more sustainable economy.

Responsible investment is an approach which takes into account environmental, social and governance (so-called ESG) factors in the investment process. WWF and ShareAction also looked at the level of transparency of information on responsible investment. The study was carried out through desk research, and a questionnaire was sent to the 20 largest pension funds. Pension funds that did not answer the questionnaire were assessed based on publicly available information.

Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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