South Korea’s $733 billion national pension fund admitted it’s been overstating the amount of money it invests in socially responsible assets, adding pressure on the world’s third-largest fund to improve its record on sustainability.
(Bloomberg) — South Korea’s $733 billion national pension fund admitted it’s been overstating the amount of money it invests in socially responsible assets, adding pressure on the world’s third-largest fund to improve its record on sustainability.
The National Pension Service was called out by lawmaker Han Jeoung-ae, who said the fund assumes that all outsourced investments are socially responsible as long as the external asset managers adopt stewardship codes and guidelines, regardless of whether the investments are actually in socially responsible companies.
NPS Chairman Kim Tae-hyun acknowledged on Friday that Han was right, and that the fund would address the miscalculation of these investments, which almost tripled to 384.1 trillion won ($284 billion) last year from 2021.
“I agree,” Kim told lawmakers when he was questioned by Han over the fund’s estimates during an annual audit at the National Assembly. “We’ll take the initiative and do it correctly.”
Korea’s national pension has been under mounting pressure to bolster its environmental, social and governance practices to match increasing interest from investors. Earlier this year, the fund was challenged by local climate groups demanding it disclose details of discussions over limiting investment in coal after it failed to adopt investment-restriction strategies that align with the nation’s climate targets.
Chairman Kim said during the audit that the NPS is reviewing ways to expand socially responsible investments to include foreign stocks and bonds. Currently, the pension fund doesn’t directly invest in these overseas assets, according to a statement from lawmaker Han.
In 2021, the amount of socially responsible investment was 130.2 trillion won, accounting for about 14% of NPS’s assets at the time. That portion increased to 43% in 2022. The fund managed about 991 trillion won overall as of July.
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