A new world?
REST, or the ‘Retail Employees Superannuation Trust’, may not ring a bell with many. But in Australia and with those following sustainable finance in general and corporate responsibility in particular, it does. This pension fund in 2017 found itself in the crosshairs of a 23-year old member, Mark McVeigh, who challenged the trust had breached its fiduciary duties to him by failing to adequately consider climate change risks in their investments.
Two years and quite a vigorous defense, but an even more damaging public relations exposure later, REST settled. It aligned itself the TCFD’s acknowledgement of the economic risks associated with climate change, and promised to implement (among others) (i) a long term objective to achieve a net zero carbon footprint by 2050, (ii) measuring, monitoring and reporting outcomes on its climate progress in line with the recommendations of the TCFD, and (ii) publicly disclosing its portfolio holdings.
“Mark McVeigh shows us what everyone of us can do to hold our pension fund, our banks, our governments, to account in addressing climate change”
Interestingly, REST’s commitment also include ESG risks. Inspiring! But there is more to it. Advocacy groups such as Client Earth are holding not just entities responsible on their sustainability behaviour, but also company directors, applying the law as it is for sustainable purposes. Fiduciary duties are among them, and looking at the law through a sustainable lens might just be what the doctor ordered.