This article investigates the contribution of pension funds in harnessing the power of finance to achieve social and environmental objectives. After reviewing and discussing the potential and main hurdles to pension fund engagement in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI), the common law approach to shareholder activism is contrasted with the EU law on pension funds and on sustainability-related disclosures and taxonomies. Unlike the US and other common law jurisdictions, where the duties regarding retirement institutions are derived from trust law, EU rules on pension funds governance and investment policies are generally grounded on the more relaxed duties of corporate and financial law. On the one hand, this makes it easier for pension funds to consider the potential impact of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) on investment decisions. On the other, social and environmental concerns are functionalised for economic purposes, thus reducing the possibilities for a more critical and strategical use of pension funds’ financial power by activists. This also explains why, despite being often participated in by trade unions, the existing governance of pension funds in Europe tends to outsource the management of investment policies to financial operators. While this takes responsibility away from the governing boards of pension funds in terms of their legal duties, the combination of decentralisation and the outsourcing of investment management undermines the possibility for unions to engage in shareholder activism, and to strike a balance between the position of workers as stakeholders and the position of workers as shareholders.

Between stakeholders and shareholders: Pension funds and labour solidarity in the age of sustainability / P. Tomassetti. - In: EUROPEAN LABOUR LAW JOURNAL. - ISSN 2031-9525. - 14:1(2023), pp. 73-91. [10.1177/20319525221140422]

Between stakeholders and shareholders: Pension funds and labour solidarity in the age of sustainability

P. Tomassetti
2023

Abstract

This article investigates the contribution of pension funds in harnessing the power of finance to achieve social and environmental objectives. After reviewing and discussing the potential and main hurdles to pension fund engagement in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI), the common law approach to shareholder activism is contrasted with the EU law on pension funds and on sustainability-related disclosures and taxonomies. Unlike the US and other common law jurisdictions, where the duties regarding retirement institutions are derived from trust law, EU rules on pension funds governance and investment policies are generally grounded on the more relaxed duties of corporate and financial law. On the one hand, this makes it easier for pension funds to consider the potential impact of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) on investment decisions. On the other, social and environmental concerns are functionalised for economic purposes, thus reducing the possibilities for a more critical and strategical use of pension funds’ financial power by activists. This also explains why, despite being often participated in by trade unions, the existing governance of pension funds in Europe tends to outsource the management of investment policies to financial operators. While this takes responsibility away from the governing boards of pension funds in terms of their legal duties, the combination of decentralisation and the outsourcing of investment management undermines the possibility for unions to engage in shareholder activism, and to strike a balance between the position of workers as stakeholders and the position of workers as shareholders.
pension funds; shareholder activism; socially responsible investments; ESG; trade unions
Settore IUS/07 - Diritto del Lavoro
2023
Article (author)
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/949294
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