Do the Fiduciary Duties of Pension Funds Hinder Socially Responsible Investment?
Banking and Finance Law Review, Forthcoming
57 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2007
In recent years, pension funds and other institutional investors have begun to give more attention to the environmental and social behaviour of the companies in which they invest. A recent movement for socially responsible investment (SRI) seeks to exclude companies that pollute or ignore human rights, for example, and to champion those that behave ethically and responsibly. However, some confusion among investment decision makers persists about the extent to which their fiduciary duties to beneficiaries allow policies that may sacrifice financial returns for environmental or other philanthropic causes. This is compounded by the belief that they cannot secure the best returns in respect of their fiduciary obligations with current socially responsible companies. With reference to the main common law jurisdictions, this article critically examines whether the fiduciary duties of pension fund investors hinder SRI. Contrary to some commonly held beliefs, SRI can often sit comfortably with fiduciary duties to invest prudently. However, legal reforms to improve the climate for SRI would help, as evident by some recent initiatives in several jurisdictions.
Keywords: Pension funds, socially responsible investment, environmental law, fiduciary responsibilities
JEL Classification: K20, K32, G2, O16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation