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Sustainability heavyweight Barbara Zvan to head new Canadian pension fund

Former advisor to Canadian Government on green finance will be CEO of University Pension Plan Ontario

Established climate and sustainability expert Barbara Zvan has been named the inaugural President and CEO for the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP).

The new scheme, which will reportedly run C$10bn, is co-sponsored by Queen's University, the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto. It will replace the five existing pension plans in place across the three universities. In future, it will be open to other Ontario universities.

“My job is about building a pension plan that members will be proud of… That means we will need to produce solid returns while paying critical attention to responsible investing and risk management” – Barbara Zvan

Zvan, who left her position as Chief Risk and Strategy Officer at Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan earlier this year, was one of four appointees to the Government of Canada's Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance, which provided a series of recommendations to the government on how it could foster green finance in the country. Another member of that group, Tiff Macklem, was recently appointed as the Governor of the Bank of Canada. 

Zvan played a significant role in creating the G7 Investor Leadership Network, as part of Canada’s presidency of the global body. During her time at OTTP, she developed its responsible investing and climate change strategy and directed the organisation's enterprise and operational risk management approach. 

She will retain her position on the board of the Global Risk Institute in Financial Services, the Responsible Investment Association and the advisory board of the Institute of Sustainable Finance at the Smith School of Business, Queen's University. She will also remain a member of the Advisory Committee for the new 'Investing to Address Climate Change' Charter, adopted by fifteen Canadian universities, and of the industry-led Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.

Speaking to RI, Zvan said it was still early days for UPP’s sustainability work, but that “my job is about building a pension plan that members will be proud of… That means we will need to produce solid returns while paying critical attention to responsible investing and risk management”. 

UPP’s Board of Trustees will comprise individuals selected by employers and employees, to create a shared governance model and give members enhanced involvement in the governance of the pension plan.

Subject to regulatory approval, the new plan will be fully operational by July 2021.