When it comes to pension funds, churches and other organisations with investments, there is little consensus about how transparent they should be. Some are much better at releasing investment information than others. Policy statements on ethics are usually easier to obtain than lists of shareholdings.
The campaign group Share Action recommends that trustees of funds disclose the following information each year on a public website:
- Their statement of investment principles
- At least the top 100 equity investments they hold
- Their annual voting record
- Their engagement strategy, specific issues to be acted on and the results and progress of these efforts
Share Action advocates that funds’ annual reports should include a detailed section on responsible investment, with information on the results of engagements with companies and key votes.
If you are a beneficiary of a pension fund or other investment scheme, you are entitled to at least some basic information about how it is run. In the case of occupational pension schemes, you should expect to receive a statement of investment principles. Local authority and other public service institutional funds in the UK are covered by the Freedom of Information Act, giving citizens the right to access certain types of information.
If your institution or fund holds shares in a company you are concerned about and has a policy on ethics, this can give you a hook upon which to frame a request for information. For example, if you are concerned about a company’s environmental performance, and environmental issues are referred to in a fund’s policy, you can ask how the fund applies its policy in this particular case.