PLSA ESG 22: Next year will be ‘year of the trustee’ - Coffey

Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, and Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, are working on making 2023 ‘the year of the trustee’.

Addressing the PLSA ESG Conference 2022, Coffey said that this work will include providing more support to trustees through a programme of education and by promoting best practice through the course of next year.

“In the next few months, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be publishing specific guidance on the new Paris-alignment metric, as well as on the stewardship role of trustees,” she continued.

“The Minister for Pensions and I think we can go further. We are looking right now at how we can make 2023 the year of the trustee, to recognise some of the excellent work trustees are already doing.”

Coffey noted that the DWP will be working with industry partners, including the PLSA, on the venture, telling attendees to “watch this space”.

“We want to look at a range of support and opportunities, as I recognise that we are asking a lot of trustees and occupational pension schemes,” she added.

“I want to thank you for the leadership and focus you are taking.”

Answering questions following Coffey's recorded message, DWP policy director, private pensions & arm's length bodies, Pete Searle, said that the department was "really keen" to support trustees and to encourage people to come forward to be trustees.

"She [Coffey] is keen to work with the industry on what this ['the year of the trustee'] might involve, and work with The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and others around it," he continued.

"Without telling you it’s XYZ at this point, it’s more of an offer: What would be useful for you? What would help you in the ‘year of the trustee’?"

When asked about the upcoming stewardship regulations, Searle said: "We will be publishing a response to that consultation and in this case guidance around May/June of this year.

"The coming into force date is not set, but we are ambitious to get this in place sooner rather than later."

Commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, Searle noted that the government would not be pushing pension schemes to divest from Russian assets, and that schemes should continue to consider the financial interests of members.

Speaking about the transition to a green economy, Coffey reiterated the government's view that divestment was not the answer.

"Our approach is about better information and empowerment, not about divestment or directly penalising today’s high-carbon emitters," she said.

"High emitters like fossil fuel companies should be supported in their transitions to net zero, and we need them to invest in green technologies. This is about enabling pension schemes to distinguish between the leaders and the laggards based on the ambition of those companies."

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