This blog by Karen Shackleton is part of a weekly series from the Pensions for Purpose team. This week, she reflects on justice and the role that pension funds can play.
This weekend, my local church focused on Justice. Helen Scamman, the Associate Vicar, made some powerful and thought-provoking comments about our personal responsibilities in a just world (you can watch her sermon here if of interest). As I reflected on this, I realised that I have always been passionate about justice, and this passion was at the heart of my desire to set up Pensions for Purpose. I wanted pension funds to begin thinking about the way they invested so that they focused not just on financial returns but also focused on purpose. I most definitely wanted them to invest in a just world. After all, by their very nature, pension funds exist to provide a just (fair) pension for members.
So, what does investment in a just world imply? Helen quoted Desmond Tutu, who said “There comes a point when we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream to find out why”. I have been a long-standing supporter of Big Issue’s motto of offering a “hand up not a handout”. Philanthropic money has its valuable place and in disasters it is absolutely part of the solution. But pension fund capital also has a role to play. By investing in opportunities that can deliver market-rate, risk-adjusted returns, but which also intentionally focus on delivering a positive social impact, we can absolutely go upstream and tackle the root cause of injustice in today’s society. That might mean investing in housing for vulnerable women … or investing in infrastructure projects in the African continent … or investing in faster broadband for rural communities. There are so many different ways to invest in a just world.
Helen pondered why we don’t do more to tackle injustice. She felt there were three key reasons and I’ve adapted these for the perspective of a pension fund:
My response to these obstacles would be:
Helen’s advice to us all (which again, I have tweaked for pension funds) was to Ask, Consider and Take Action:
By taking small steps collectively, we can begin to change the world and tackle injustice together. So let’s start today…