Taking a stand on responsible investing

Pension plans don’t have to be invested in dodgy companies or environmentally destructive projects to grow funds for retirement. 

You can have a strong pension plan that generates valuable returns – and one that does so responsibly.

Many members have voiced concerns about where their pensions might be invested. In 2020, we learned the Public Service Pension Plan (the PSP, a plan most PIPSC members belong to) was the sole owner of Revera – a for-profit company running the long-term care facilities responsible for hundreds of deaths of senior citizens. It was later exposed that the company also had a record of dodging its taxes while issuing dividend payments. 

The federal government’s most recent budget included plans to add 2 union representatives to the governance committee of the Public Service Pension Investment Board (the fund manager of the Public Service Pension Plan). 

This provides a unique and long-awaited opportunity to have a say in where our pension funds are invested – and apply what’s known as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards.

We know our members expect evidence-based policies. 

Over the next few months, we, along with other unions, will work with investment experts and independent researchers to understand if implementing ESG criteria will make a real difference – and evaluate the costs. Our hope is that this research will help us build our own ESG policy so we can advocate to fund managers and governments to do better. 

PIPSC currently sits on the board and oversight committees of several pension plans. We contribute to plan governance through consultation projects and public-interest advocacy before government bodies. Having a specific ESG policy will ensure our collective efforts are aligned with your values, particularly as federal unions prepare to take a new seat at the Public Service Pension Investment Board.

PIPSC member pensions are big players in the investment world – to the tune of about 1 trillion dollars. With funds this large, where they get invested can have a big impact on the environment, economy, and human rights – whether that’s positive or negative. 

Other major investment funds have championed many financially-sound ESG initiatives, including the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Not too long ago, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board divested from 2 US private prison companies with terrible human rights records – investments that their board wasn’t even aware of. By doing this research, we’ll have a better understanding of the investments of our members’ pension plan, and what we can do to make it more values-aligned.

Based on the recommendation of the PIPSC Pension Advisory Committee, the initial ESG proposal will consider criteria like environmental sustainability, human rights, inclusion and diversity, labour rights, evidence-based public policy/interests, protecting Canadian jobs, and advancing the public sector. Members are welcome to submit further suggestions to pensionsbenefits@pipsc.ca

A final proposal will be brought before the 2022 Annual General Meeting for approval.