The heads of Dutch civil service pension giant ABP and its asset management arm APG, Corien Wortmann and Gerard van Olphen, met with Greenpeace earlier this week to discuss their investments in tar sands – with the investors saying they are no closer to the campaign group on the issue.
Prior to the meeting, Greenpeace presented a petition calling on the $494bn fund and its wholly-owned asset manager to immediately divest from the sector.
“As was to be expected, both parties did not come closer together on the ‘tar sand dossier’,” APG said, adding that Wortmann, who is a former MEP and Vice President on Economic and Financial Affairs of the European People’s Party, once again clarified that ABP / APG only invests in companies that already belong to the top in this area and respect human rights.
Van Olphen pointed out what he calls the ‘four-digit PIN code’ of ABP / APG’s investment policy. He emphasized that sustainability weighs in as much as the traditional criteria of return, risk and costs.
Wortmann invited Greenpeace to a further meeting, in March 2019.
Tar sands are mainly found in Canada and mining it for crude is controversial for producing emissions beyond that of regular petroleum production, leaving behind pools of toxic waste, high refining costs and violating the rights of Aboriginal communities.
ABP has said that it has asked investee companies to use technologies with the lowest CO2 emissions and to cause the least damage to the landscape as possible.Companies were also asked not to begin new tar sand mining projects but to instead look for alternatives.
Earlier this year, Greenpeace singled out four Dutch investors including ABP — the others were PFZW, Aegon and Nationale Nederlanden — calling them the “Vieze Vier” or the Dirty Four over their holdings in tar sands.
“Sustainability weighs in as much as the traditional criteria of return, risk and costs”
In response, Eloy Lindeijer, Chief of Investment Management of PGGM – the investment manager of PFZW – said investors had a responsibility to conduct “a good sustainability dialogue” with the producers.
Mining tar sands has not been very lucrative in recent years due to depressed oil prices in conjunction with high production costs.
Analysis released last year by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) concluded that new greenfield mines were not “economically feasible under the current pricing environment”.
However, oil prices have risen recently, resulting in cautious optimism in the sector.
Meanwhile, APG has announced a move into a single sustainable office building. It said it would leave the Symphony Tower in the Zuidas site in 2021 and will concentrate all its Amsterdam activities in the building Basisweg 10, near Sloterdijk station. It will be at “one of the most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands”.