Last Friday the Oxfordshire Pension Fund Committee met to sign off their new Investment Statement Strategy and during the meeting itself agreed to insert the words “including climate change” to the first sentence of the ESG policy, which now reads:
“The Committee recognises that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, including climate change, can have materially significant investment implications.”
We piled on the pressure for this meeting. Our campaign has been going about three years and we knew that our target was resistant to our message. But this was a moment where some movement seemed possible and there was a frantic flurry of activity in the weeks leading up to the meeting. We encouraged supporters and local groups via our networks, our petition, etc to apply to address the meeting using this briefing. We think about 25 did (an unprecedented number for this committee) - so many that all were told they would not be allowed to speak, but were invited to send written statements. The committee members received a bunch of erudite and pasionate arguments. We also encouraged people to turn up to the meeting, even though they were refused permission to speak at it. On the day there were at least 25 of us in the public seating which sent a powerful signal that people were demanding action. There’s no way this shift would have happened without the help of this fabulous band of volunteers.
Even more significantly, new accountability and reporting mechanisms seem possible. The Committee also responded to our demands (first made in July 2015 and repeated numerous times since) for greater accountability and transparency in how they ensure their fund managers mitigate climate risk. They told us they will use the Transition Pathway Initiative to assess all holdings on a four-monthly basis, further investigate any holdings that score poorly, and divest from companies that do not perform acceptably. They will develop a reporting mechanism that allows them to demonstrate to the public how this process reduces their exposure to climate risk. We need to examine the Transition Pathway and hold them to their word to divest from poorly performing companies, but this is progress we are very excited about.
To add to the excitement, just days before the meeting we learned from Simon Bullock at Friends of the Earth about the ClientEarth/Share Action referral to the Pensions Regulator (Oxfordshire gets a name-check in the referral, which was nice), and took full advantage of that. Thank you Simon and Natalie at ClientEarth for all your amazing support in the run-up to the meeting!
Not divestment yet, but the Oxfordshire Pension Fund are on the way!