During the past year, VBDO together with WWF brought the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA) to the attention of the Dutch financial sector. The members of the NZAOA commit themselves to a transition of their investment portfolio to net-zero GHG emissions in 2050, in-line with a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.
From the Netherlands, Pensioenfonds Detailhandel and Univest have joined the NZAOA. In addition, Athora Netherlands will soon join the NZAOA. VBDO discusses this with Jan Willem de Vaal, Sustainability manager at Athora Netherlands, and Ruud Hadders, Responsible Investment Officer at Actiam, the asset manager of Athora Netherlands.
Next week this international coalition, of 60 institutional asset owners with invested assets of $10 trillion AuM, will present the net-zero commitments of the international financial sector at COP26 in Glasgow.
What are Athora’s reasons for participating in the NZAOA?
Jan Willem – We have expressed our commitment to contribute to the ambitions of the Climate Accord. The NZAOA makes these ambitions even more concrete. Therefore, it connects and increases the ambition level, which is stimulated from Athora Netherlands.
Why do you think other Dutch asset owners have not yet joined NZAOA in large numbers?
Jan Willem – I think there is a fear among parties about the concrete objectives requested by the NZAOA and the short-term implications for the portfolio.
Ruud – Clients we speak to make a deliberate choice; they don’t just want to sign a commitment but also want to have the set target tested and get feedback on it. Each party does this at its own pace.
How do you give substance to net-zero target/commitment and what are the implications for the investment portfolio?
Ruud – By selecting the right companies that are planning a transition, we are working towards a Net Zero portfolio. We analyze these companies thoroughly and we prefer to see that their Net Zero goals are scientifically based.
What are the expectations of Athora NL and Actiam regarding NZAOA?
Ruud – We are looking forward to discussions with the other parties in the alliance about ambitious goals and how we can fulfill the requirements. We see it mainly as a way to share and gain knowledge in the various working groups.
Athora Netherlands has joined the NZAOA, but deliberately chooses not to exclude the fossil fuel industry. Why not, what is your philosophy?
Jan Willem – Athora Netherlands and Actiam have an approach of looking within sectors for companies that, on the one hand, are lagging behind but have adaptive capabilities and want to contribute to the energy transition. These companies are greatly needed to realize the energy transition. If it turns out that these companies are not making sufficient progress, they will be excluded from our investment universe. On the other hand, we identify frontrunners in which you do want to invest. The ultimate goal is to invest in the necessary transition.
What would you like to say to other Dutch asset owners?
Jan-Willem – We would like to focus on cooperation. It’s about the question; how can we become better together in the Netherlands and internationally? Here, with an appeal to members and non-members of the NZAOA; we would like to start the conversation and learn from each other, so that multiple parties can benefit.
VBDO expects pension funds and insurers to develop a climate strategy with short, medium and long-term objectives in-line with the 1.5C objective of the Paris Climate Accord. The VBDO Benchmark Responsible Investment by Pension Funds, which was presented at Financial Investigator on Monday, November 1, shows that more than four out of five pension funds do not have a detailed climate strategy. We understand that there are many paths to Paris; cooperation can contribute to a successful climate strategy. VBDO supports NZAOA in this.
More information about the NZAOA