BP and Shell Pension Schemes Still Lack Net Zero Targets Despite Company Pledges

Santander, Boots, BMW and Centrica also feature among the top 20 UK pension plans without carbon neutral goals.
BP and Shell Pension Schemes Still Lack Net Zero Targets Despite Company Pledges
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Lower half of person in black standing on their black bicycle in downtown Berlin with a cardboard sign painted with 'systems change not climate change' and an adapted yellow and red Shell logo pointing down with 'Shell must fall', hanging on the back wheel
Shell protest in Berlin, 2020. Credit: Leonhard Lenz, public domain

Pension schemes run by BP and Shell have yet to bring in net zero targets for their investment portfolios despite the fossil fuel giants’ “green” marketing, new analysis has found. 

The report, from the Make My Money Matter campaign, casts further doubt on the companies’ climate commitments, after experts have found the companies’ own net zero goals to be insufficient.

In it, the group identifies the 20 largest pension schemes in the UK that have not yet set targets to reach net zero, which represent a total of £200 billion in assets between them.

This includes the BP Pension Fund and Shell Contributory Pension Fund, along with German-owned electricity generator RWE Group’s pension scheme, and those of several household names including Santander, Boots and BMW. 

It also includes Centrica, which has used the energy crisis to campaign for the return of fracking as the UK reviews its 2019 moratorium on the practice. 

‘Missing a Trick’

Make My Money Matter, which was co-founded in 2020 by Love, Actually filmmaker Richard Curtis to advocate for more environmentally friendly pensions, said the 20 schemes’ investments could be producing 24 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. 

The group is calling on pension schemes to develop concrete plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, including a halving of emissions by 2030.

“Leading businesses are urgently acting on sustainability, but it turns out many are missing an enormous trick – their pensions”, Curtis said.

“We hope this report helps wake up both business leaders and those in the pensions industry to the extraordinary power of our money. In doing so they can make sure our pensions are helping tackle the climate crisis, not fuelling the fire.” 

“It is concerning that many major pension schemes have still not yet set net zero targets,” said Huw Davies, senior finance adviser at Make My Money Matter. “We want to see all pension schemes set credible climate targets – in particular the largest schemes which have yet to commit and which collectively account for a sizeable proportion of UK savers’ money.”

Davies pointed to recent climate commitments by the pension schemes of Royal Mail, the Co-op and Marks & Spencer as examples other companies should follow.

A failure to do so, he said, risked “the very futures our pensions are there to provide for”.

‘Robust Policies’

Shell Contributory Pension Fund declined to comment, as did Centrica. BP and Boots did not respond when contacted for comment. 

RWE Group said its pension scheme had not set a target yet because there was “currently no recognised and reliable method of measuring the carbon impact [of many investments]” and said it had “robust” responsible investment policies.

A Santander spokesperson said the bank’s pension scheme would be adopting a net zero target later in June “subject to Trustee board approval”.

“There has been extensive engagement with the Trustee’s climate change adviser and careful consideration of the impacts and requirements of a commitment to a net-zero target on member’s benefits”, they said.

A BMW spokesperson claimed its Operations Pension Scheme does have a net zero plan, which will be announced in the coming months.

In response, Make My Money Matter said it had tried unsuccessfully to contact BMW multiple times while compiling its report. Since the group became aware of the target this week, the company has refused to provide any further information, it said.

BP and Shell Pension Schemes Still Lack Net Zero Targets Despite Company Pledges
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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