Major Swiss pension funds set up new corporate engagement and ESG body

New organisation is called SVVK-ASIR and represents CHF150bn in assets

Seven of Switzerland’s biggest institutional investors, including federal employees’ pension fund PUBLICA and the AHV buffer pension fund, have joined forces to agree on and implement common ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria and to jointly engage with “problematic” investee companies.

The new organisation is called SVVKASIR and besides PUBLICA and AHV, is backed by Pensionskasse Post (for the Swiss postal system); Pensionskasse SBB (for the railway system); comPlan (for telecoms firm Swisscom), the insurer Suva; as well as BVK, the pension fund for the canton of Zurich. Together, the seven investors represent CHF150bn (€138bn) in assets.

SVVKASIR’s founding members said that in keeping with their fiduciary duty, they would agree on and employ “transparent” ESG criteria when investing. In defining the criteria, the members said they would rely on international agreements like that banning cluster munitions and the UN Global Compact. Regarding “problematic” investees – that is those who do not uphold their criteria – the members said they would begin an engagement campaign.“Should such a dialogue not lead to improvement, the company in question will be added to SVVKASIR’s exclusion list, which will be published on the organisation’s website,” the members said.

Swiss institutional investors wanting to invest responsibly have been able to do so for years by turning to the Geneva-based firm Ethos. Backed by more than 200 Swiss schemes and foundations, Ethos provides engagement and proxy voting services as well as access to sustainable investing.

In related news, Ethos said that it would support the board of Swiss adhesives firm Sika in its legal fight against the Burkard family, which has a controlling 16% stake in Sika. By way of a lawsuit filed with a court in the city of Zug, the Burkard family is trying to get the two last shareholder meetings annulled so that it can sell its stake to French glass giant Saint Gobain.

Ethos said in a statement that it had been called as a witness to testify on behalf of Sika’s board, which staunchly opposes the Saint Gobain takeover.