Socially responsible investments - also known as ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) - are high on the agenda of Shell Pension. Who are the people behind our ESG policy? An interview with 'focal points' Martijn Minderhoud (SSPF) and Nicole van der Toorn (SNPS).
Martijn: "We - with SSPF that would be Janneke Abels and myself - are the first point of contact in the field of responsible investment. In this role we discuss, among others, current affairs and determine which items are to be included in the agenda of the board. We also prepare board decisions, provide support and give advice where needed."
Nicole: "It's great fun to be able to take a look at the details on behalf of the board and to participate in all ESG task forces. Last year, for example, I was closely involved in the implementation of the IMVB covenant. This is a collaboration between 74 Dutch pension funds to encourage companies to conduct business responsibly."
Nicole: "SNPS is a small, relatively young fund. Yet we manage to make more and more progress in the field of ESG. What I also find very typical for SNPS is that we take the opinion of our participants seriously. In that respect, we are a truly innovative fund, and you can tell that from our investments."
Martijn: "SSPF has made huge progress in the field of ESG in recent years. First there was a special task force, but it is now a permanent part of the work schedule of Shell Pensioenbureau Nederland. This is done in consultation with the board. The ambition to invest in a socially responsible way is becoming part of our DNA."
Martijn: "We find it important to leave the world behind in good shape for the next generation. I am 70 and I see that - thankfully - a lot more attention is being paid to the climate, the world and, for example, equal opportunities. That was different in the days when I was still working. Together, we are all committed to the Paris Agreement (part of the Climate Agreement) to keep global warming under control. It feels right to be able to make a positive contribution to that."
Nicole: "Shell's ambition is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero. That's what the social debate is about, but also, for example, about the positive effect of diversity in organisations. Therefore you want to implement these focus areas in your investment policy. That's why the focus of both funds is on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Action and Gender Equality."
Nicole: "Last year we carried out a survey and this showed that the majority consider these goals significant and appropriate for Shell. Talking to participants a few years ago, it was all about returns. Now sustainability is an issue as well. So the SDGs are increasingly 'top of mind'. But for many people, it is still unclear what we do exactly. That's why this year the focus will be on communication.
Martijn: "That might be taking things a bit far. But you have to find the subject interesting to take on this role. At home, I do something positive for the world in my own way: I insulated my house built in 1927, I often eat vegetarian and since this summer I am driving a hybrid car."
Nicole: "I am also trying to make as many conscious decisions as possible. For example, I have solar panels on my roof and look at how I can save energy. I also like to explore the subject: what does the Climate Agreement mean and how will it spread across the world?
Nicole: "Diversity is key, not only in gender but also in background, ability and age. You want the right mix in several areas. We would like to have at least 2 women on the board and are putting a lot of effort into that. Unfortunately, due to various issues, we haven't succeeded yet. Sometimes the background does not fully match or we are talking to women who cannot accept the position for particular reasons. It has our attention and I am sure we will be successful at the end of the day!
Martijn: "There are 2 women on the board and 3 in the Accountability Committee (Verantoordingsorgaan, VO). Of course, we must do more and better, but in searching for candidates for these positions you have to find the right balance between interest, knowledge, availability and diversity. We are on the right track!"