We demand transparent and sustainable investments

The VBL administers a large part of occupational pensions in the public sector

The Federal and State Government Employees' Retirement Fund (Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder, VBL) administers the occupational pensions of around 4.8 million people in Germany.[1] By default, all employees in the public sector are automatically insured by the VBL.[2] The VBL administers the these occupational pensions - which is an invested capital of around 26 billion euros.

The problem - non-transparent investment strategy without sufficient social or ecological criteria

The VBL's investment strategy is problematic for two reasons. First, it does not provide transparency about where assets are invested. Secondly, the VBL does not commit itself to clear social and ecological standards with regard to its investments. Only cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines as well as producers of biological and chemical weapons are excluded from the portfolio, although the former are already outlawed by the United Nations.[3] Investments in coal, armaments or companies that tolerate inhumane working conditions or child labour are thus possible in principle.

Consequently, the VBL - as a public institution - misses to invest in future industries such as renewable energies and in the decarbonisation of our economy. The company pensions of 4.8 million members - about 26 billion euros - are not invested in a sustainable way.

We demand a new investment strategy for our pension scheme

This investment strategy is not compatible with our ideals. We are not only in our work in the public sector committed to public welfare and a sustainable future, but also when it comes to investing for our pension fund.


 

We therefore demand:

  1.     Transparency about all VBL investments.
  2.     The development of and compliance with binding ecological and social standards for all VBL investments.
  3.     The fundamental exclusion of investments in coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear energy from the VBL portfolio.

Relevance of the financial sector to reach internationally agreed climate goals

The financial sector is crucial for achieving the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. The German government declared in March 2019 that Germany should be a leading sustainable finance location in the near future.[4] The VBL, as an institution related to the federal government and supervised by the Federal Ministry of Finance, should act as a good example and support the transformation to a low-emission economy and society.

Sustainable investments guarantee a secure and stable pension

Other institutions have already shown that sustainable pension funds are possible. Caisse des Dépôts is the leading management company of French pension funds and uses its assets to promote social housing, renewable energies and other socially responsible projects. The pension funds of the German states of Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia will also invest in stock indices based on jointly developed sustainability criteria [5]

Worldwide, 1318 financial institutions have already committed themselves to stopping investments in fossil energies. In practice, this is done, for example, by excluding companies that are on the Global Coal Exit List or are part of the "Carbon Underground 200", i.e. the 200 listed companies with the largest coal, oil and gas reserves.

[6]

Current research in the field of sustainable finance suggests that no financial disadvantages arise from a sustainable investment strategy. On the contrary, investments in fossil fuels in particular also carry a high financial risk.[7]

Together we can make the VBL future-proof

The VBL is managed by a board of directors and controlled by an administrative board. We address our demands directly to these two committees. The more people and institutions support our demands, the more likely they are to be heard by the VBL. The demand comes directly from employees whose money the VBL manages.

References

[1] Sources for numbers of the VBL: VBL (2019). Zeitreise. Arbeit. Freizeit. Auszeit. Der Geschäftsbericht 2019. Available online at https://www.vbl.de/de/die_vbl/auf_einen_blick/geschaeftsbericht/ (15.04.2021).

[2] With exception of Hamburg and Saarland.

[3] VBL (2020). Available online at https://www.vbl.de/de/die_vbl/vermoegensanlage/grundsaetze_der_anlagepolitik/ (10.10.2020). With regard to sustainability, the VBL merely refers to a "commitment approach", without, however, specifying a precise procedure, the partners or the successes achieved with such an approach.

[4] BMF (2019). Sustainable Finance: BMF initiiert Strategie für Nachhaltige Finanzen. Available online at https://www.bundesfinanzministerium.de/Content/EN/Standardartikel/Topics/Financial_markets/2019-03-05-sustainable-finance.html (16.06.2020).

[5] NRW Landesportal 2019. Online abrufbar unter https://www.land.nrw/de/pressemitteilung/pensionsfonds-der-laender-nordrhein-westfalen-baden-wuerttemberg-brandenburg-und (14.07.2020)

[6] 350.org (2021). Available online at https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/ (15.04.2021)

[7] Friede, G., Busch, T. & Bassen, A. (2015). ESG and financial performance: aggregated evidence from more than 2000 empirical studies. Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment 5(4), 210-233; Caldecott, B. et al. (2016). Stranded assets: a climate risk challenge, Inter-American Development Bank Monograph 481.; Carbon Tracker (2020). Decline and Fall: The Size & Vulnerability of the Fossil Fuel System. Available online at https://carbontracker.org/reports/decline-and-fall/ (14.07.2020).