Asset managers urged to back UK stewardship code

Asset managers have been urged to back the UK Stewardship Code, after Scottish Widows emphasised the "large-scale, positive" impact that good stewardship policies can have in the real world.

The company has recently doubled-down on its climate commitments, with a pledge to make £20-25bn worth of climate-aware investments by 2025, including at least £1bn directly into climate solutions.

Indeed, its 2021 Stewardship Report highlighted a number of key environmental, social and governance (ESG) related activities over 2021, including the relaunch of the company's environmental fund to be fully fossil-fuel free, and a collaboration with University of Bath on a report into cognitive diversity on company boards.

The provider also became the first UK major pensions and insurance provider to clearly define its strategy for long-term decarbonisation and a net-zero portfolio by 2050, with the publication of its Climate Action Plan at the start of 2022 also announcing plans to divest from tobacco later in Q1.

In particular, the company highlighted its signatory status to the Financial Reporting Council's (FRC) Stewardship Code, noting that its direct engagement together with engagement from its asset managers covered 79 per cent of companies in high-impact sectors such as shipping, oil and gas, and steel.

Scottish Widows also urged other asset managers to follow suit and become signatories to the UK Stewardship Code, emphasising the real world impact this can have in addressing ESG issues.

Scottish Widows head of pension investments and responsible investments, Maria Nazarova-Doyle, commented: “When done well, stewardship policies can be the key to making large-scale, positive impacts in the real world – from slashing global emissions and championing workers’ rights, to delivering affordable social housing for the disadvantaged.

“We have led the UK pensions industry’s charge during a critical year for ESG, participating in global events such as COP26, tackling social issues such as cognitive diversity in our value chain, and taking bold action toward a fully net-zero portfolio, pledging £20-25bn worth of climate-aware investments by 2025.

“With this report, we hope to retain our status as a signatory of the FRC’s Stewardship Code. We have a responsibility to continue finessing our stewardship approach to reflect the increasing need for active ownership of businesses throughout the world to enable them to become more sustainable.”

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