This paper has three main parts. First, we briefly explore arguments grounded in fiduciary duty (and others within the “shadow” of law) as well as others rooted in the real-world social, political, and other environment in which pension funds may operate which might justify why they might make or recognize such commitments.
Second, we explore in great depth how pension funds might proceed in those terms. We discuss the standards, criteria, etc. of which pension funds might take to take account or apply. But we suggest that the major challenge relates to the systems, processes, capacities, resources, etc. which they have in place to ensure fulfillment of that commitment. In turn we describe and analyze the extensive experience in these terms of other major financial institutions, namely, international development finance institutions (DFIs), for example, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and somewhat similar national ones well that of the financial institution signatories (EPFIs) to what are termed the so-called Equator Principles (EP).
We then canvas important “cross-cutting issues”, ones which play out among many investors, for example, the matter of the relationship between how environmental and social considerations are addressed in investments and the financial performance of those investments. We also take a close look at practice relating to implementation of one aspect of standards involving social considerations, namely, labor-related standards. In addition, we draw on the relatively greater transparency of a large Dutch pension fund to offer some insights into how it goes about translating its commitments into action.
The last part of the essays distills from the preceding ones a series of “lessons learned.” That is, it offers recommendations as to what pension funds might need or want to think and then, what they might need or want to do should they choose to adopt standards relating to environmental and social considerations and, in turn, pursue a serious-minded effort to assure that those standards are met.