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Scottish Widows to divest £440m from companies that pose significant ESG risk

Source: Scottish Widows

Scottish Widows is to divest at least £440 million from companies that have failed to meet its environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, and warned this figure could grow much further if companies do not take action to improve the sustainability of their business practices.

The insurer is working with its fund manager partners to begin divesting from firms that pose the most severe investment risk due to the nature of their businesses. Scottish Widows’ new exclusions policy targets companies which derive more than 10% of their revenue from thermal coal and tar sands, manufacturers of controversial weapons and violators of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) on human rights, labour, environment and corruption- unless the size and type of investment means that the insurer can influence positive change in their business models.

Leading industry change

As one of the biggest pension providers in the UK, Scottish Widows’ new exclusions policy will benefit nearly 6 million UK savers. These exclusions will be applied across the group’s life, pension and OEIC funds - including its flagship workplace default - and will apply to index trackers as well as its own active funds.

As part of the policy, the latest step in the implementation of Scottish Widows’ Responsible Investment and Stewardship Framework, Scottish Widows is working with its strategic investment partners to apply the exclusions to the external pooled funds they manage on behalf of a broad range of institutions in order to benefit even more UK savers in the future.

Maria Nazarova-Doyle, Head of Pension Investments at Scottish Widows, said:

“As a large institutional investor, we have a vital role to play in shielding our customers from ESG investment risks, as well as influencing positive change through the investments we hold. Our exclusions focus on companies we believe pose the most severe investment risk due to the nature of their businesses, which can’t be addressed through engagement.

“The growth of these ‘at risk’ companies is likely to be severely limited by future regulations and the changing views of customers and investors, leading to significant falls in their share prices.

“We’ve worked hard to implement our exclusions across our fund range without limiting this initiative to our actively managed funds. We’re excluding investments from the index trackers which underpin our flagship multi-asset funds too.

“We recognise there’s more we can do as a company and that this is just one step in the journey. However, this underlines our commitment of becoming a market leader in responsible investment and to make a real difference.”

The exclusions move follows the insurer’s collaboration with BlackRock to design an innovative fund that integrates ESG considerations into its pension funds. The ACS Climate Transition World Equity Fund backs businesses that decrease carbon emissions, increase clean technology revenue and display more efficient water and waste management. The fund also makes significant ESG exclusions.

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