Environmental campaigners criticise awards honour

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A national awards scheme for local authority pension funds has come under fire from environmental campaigners after granting an honour to the East Sussex Pension Fund.

Local Authorities Pension Fund Investments Awards
Local Authorities Pension Fund Investments Awards 2021. From Left: Heather Brown of Aviva Investors, Sian Kunert the head of pensions at the East Sussex Pension Fund, Cllr Gerard Fox and comedian Sally Phillips.

On Tuesday (29th March), the East Sussex Pension Fund was named Fund of the Year (assets over £2.5bn) at the 2021 Local Authority Pension Fund Investments Awards. In addition, the Fund was highly commended in the Best Climate Change Strategy category.

According to East Sussex County Council, which administers the fund, the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) awards panel praised its investment performance and “approach to governance, administration, and collaboration”.

Cllr Gerard Fox, who chairs Pension Committee at East Sussex County Council, said:

Winning the LGPS Fund of the Year award is a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of our officers and advisors in managing the fund.

A great deal of work and thinking has been undertaken to address both the challenges and the opportunities presented by climate change, sustainability, and the energy transition.

This has helped us to better align the fund’s portfolio with these themes, allowing it to play a role both in providing climate solutions, as well as protecting the interests of our scheme members.

Being highly commended for our climate change strategy is a welcome acknowledgement of this ongoing work and the substantial changes that we have made.

Cllr Fox, Chair of the Pension Committee at East Sussex County Council

However, the award panel’s decision has come under fire from Divest East Sussex, a campaign group which has long been calling on the pension fund to rid itself of any investments in the fossil fuel industry.

A spokesperson for the group said:

This award is yet another example of a pensions industry that has dramatically failed on climate change, congratulating one of its own despite its continued failure on this front.

One of the most basic things that any pension fund should be doing right now is taking effective action to tackle the climate crisis by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, as this is ‘the only real path to protect long-term investment value and returns’.

The litmus test for this is whether or not a fund has made a public commitment to fully divest from the fossil fuel companies that are driving the crisis.

This is something that the East Sussex Pension Fund has consistently refused to do.

Divest East Sussex

The 2021 awards were delayed until March 2022 due to the pandemic.

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1 COMMENT

  1. As a member of the East Sussex Pension Fund who worked for East Sussex for almost 20 years, I am very disappointed that the award won the best climate change strategy despite refusing to divest from fossil fuels.

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