Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, today announces they have set both 2025 and 2030 carbon intensity reduction targets for their investment portfolio. These interim targets are part of Phoenix Group’s pathway to achieving net zero carbon for investments by 2050 in line with their science-based targets commitments, and are a key element of their overall approach to Responsible Investment.
The new targets will reduce carbon emission intensity by at least 50% by 2030 and will apply to the £250bn of investments where Phoenix Group have control and influence. Phoenix Group estimate that once achieved, the impact of the 2030 target they are setting will deliver carbon reductions equivalent to the annual emissions of heating over 6 million homes, or a quarter of all homes in the UK2.
Within the £250bn, some £160bn is invested in pension funds, spanning customers of Standard Life, Phoenix Life and Reassure, who are all part of Phoenix Group. Phoenix Group’s insight shows that responsible investment and climate change are important considerations for many customers, and they are working with their investment partners to help their customers invest in a responsible way, while managing risk and achieving good investment outcomes when they come to retire. Phoenix Group have around 13 million customers, many of whom are pension savers.
At the same time Phoenix Group announce a partnership with Make My Money Matter and pledge their support to their campaign to build a better future. Phoenix Group are committed to building a green and sustainable future, and to using their position as a large asset owner to integrate sustainability into every aspect of the investment ecosystem. Like the Make My Money Matter campaign, Phoenix Group recognise that we all have a role to play and that true collaboration is at the heart of the journey to net zero.
On 19 October 2021, Phoenix Group will therefore be hosting a public, virtual event to drive forward the investment debate and the positive action needed to tackle climate change. Richard Curtis, filmmaker and Co-Founder of Make My Money Matter, will be joining Phoenix’s Group Chief Executive Andy Briggs to discuss the power of pensions and how to accelerate the action needed to make net zero investment portfolios a reality. The event will also convene a panel discussion with some of Phoenix Group’s asset management partners (abrdn, BlackRock and Invesco) to explore the practicalities of decarbonising investment portfolios, and a discussion with the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financial (PCAF), Climate Action 100+ and Make My Money Matter on how to collaborate to move towards a net zero financial ecosystem.
Andy Briggs, Group CEO of Phoenix Group, commented:
“At Phoenix Group we have set an ambition to lead the way on Responsible Investment and to drive forward action to support the transition to a zero carbon economy. Setting interim near term targets is an important milestone on our journey to our investments becoming net zero by 2050 or earlier, to which I am personally committed. Within this, some £160bn of assets invested for our pension customers are going on that journey with us.
“Investing responsibly is also about encouraging good corporate governance practices and positively contributing to environmental and wider societal issues, while managing risk and ensuring good outcomes for customers. We have been working with government and our industry to influence legislation that will enable our entire industry to invest more in sustainable assets.
“With just 20% of the world’s largest public companies having committed to net zero targets, and only a quarter of these pledges passing basic robustness tests3, we are encouraging others to take action and set near term targets in line with the climate science too. We will be working with partners in the financial ecosystem and the many companies we invest in to encourage wider uptake of robust net zero aligned pledges and plans.”
“We will continue to drive forward action and by partnering with Make My Money Matter, we hope to inform the debate, harness the power of pensions, and support the case for further change as we approach COP26.”
Andrew Griffith, UK Net Zero Business COP Champion, said:
“We are putting businesses at the heart of our net zero ambitions, so it is fantastic to see companies like Phoenix Group showing leadership by setting clear targets for reducing their carbon emissions.
“With the UN COP26 summit in Glasgow less than a month away, I hope this type of bold action will encourage other businesses to work with government and make similar commitments as we build back greener.”
Also commenting on Phoenix Group’s commitment, Richard Curtis, Co-Founder at Make My Money Matter said:
“Pensions used to be the last thing I’d ever talk about – the worst thing to bring up over lunch – but with announcements like these from Phoenix Group, they’re fast becoming the first, because they’re such a powerful tool in changing the world. Phoenix Group’s pledge to halve their carbon this decade sets the pace for other pension providers ahead of COP26, and with an additional £160bn now working towards tackling the climate crisis – not fuelling the fire – their pledge proves how powerful our pensions can be.
“That’s the good news – but there’s still nearly £2tr in UK pension schemes that don’t align with the Paris Climate Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C – and this has to change. I hope leadership like this by Phoenix Group encourages others across the industry to step up to the plate fast and make robust net zero commitments ahead of COP, so we can all have pensions to be proud of. With sustainable pensions, we can make sure our money helps build a healthy planet, as well as healthy returns.”
Interim targets towards net zero
In December 2020, Phoenix Group committed to their investment portfolio becoming net zero carbon by 2050 and this is aligned with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.
Phoenix Group recognise the importance of setting interim targets to ensure there is a clear pathway to their overall net zero objectives. The interim targets announced today will include:
- By 2025 – A reduction of 25% in the carbon emission intensity of their investments. This will cover all listed equity and credit assets where Phoenix Group can exercise control and influence (c£160bn)
- By 2030 – A reduction of at least 50% in the carbon emission intensity of their investments. This will cover all assets at a Group level where Phoenix can exercise control and influence (c£250bn)4.
In order to achieve the targets, Phoenix Group believe government policy, technology, consumer appetite and business response need to shift. Phoenix Group will be looking to play a leading role in informing the debate and supporting the case for change, and will keep their targets under regular review. Their net zero commitment includes decarbonisation of investment portfolios, investment in climate solutions, and engaging actively with investee companies to support and accelerate the transition of their business models. Phoenix Group’s approach is ‘engagement first’; divestment will always be their last resort if corporate management is not responsive, and they have a policy on specific exclusions.
Phoenix Group will be expressing emissions in terms of carbon intensity (i.e. tCO2e/£1m) rather than total absolute emissions, in line with industry standards for portfolio decarbonisation, and are committed to regular, public reporting against its targets. Last year they also set a target for their operation to be net zero carbon by 2025 and are on track to achieve this.
Phoenix Group are making strong progress in comprehensively integrating environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) considerations into their end-to-end investment strategy, risk management and governance processes. Their Responsible Investment strategy includes four pillars:
- Strategy and governance
- ESG Integration
- Decarbonisation of investment portfolios
Phoenix Group invested over £700 million in sustainable assets in the first half of 2021 alone and recently provided £50 million in long-term financing to a not-for-profit Welsh Housing association to build around 1,000 new energy efficient, affordable homes. Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, launched a Sustainable Multi Asset Fund default fund for workplace pension clients and their scheme members in December last year. Standard Life are now looking to evolve their existing range of investment solutions to increase the ESG focus.
Phoenix Group have also launched a dedicated Venture Capital fund for policyholder funds with an initial allocation in excess of £100m which will be a key enabler to helping Build Britain Back Better, whilst providing policyholders with a diversified source of sustainable returns that will support Healthcare, Green Energy and FinTech entrepreneurs up and down the country. More information on Phoenix Group’s approach to Responsible Investment can be found here .
1 This is an estimate derived by taking a prudent view of the investment portfolio’s emissions by considering comparable market portfolios and using ONS data for emissions for heating the average UK home. The average UK home emits about 2,800 kg CO2 equivalent on heating a year.
2 As above
3 Source: Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit
4 External Fund Links of the unit-linked business is currently not in scope. This position will be under regular review. This constitutes c£50bn.