Call for councils to avoid investing pensions in fracking

Northumberland County Council's pension fund has indirect investments in companies which frack, according to campaigners.
Northumberland County Council's pension fund has indirect investments in companies which frack, according to campaigners.

Campaigners have highlighted the money invested by council pension funds in companies involved in fracking, including £39.8million from Northumberland.

However, this money – 3.77 per cent of the more than £1billion portfolio – is what is estimated to be invested indirectly in companies which carry out the controversial drilling process.

Northumberland County Council’s 27,000-member fund has no direct investments in fracking businesses.

The data, released by 350.org, Platform and Friends of the Earth, reveals that UK councils invest £9billion of their workers’ pensions into companies that frack, even though public support for their operations is consistently low.

The campaigners are calling for councils to divest themselves from fracking companies, with two council pension funds so far making full commitments and a further five making partial commitments.

Deirdre Duff, divestment campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “UK councils should know better than to invest in fracking companies.

“These companies are inflicting their fracking operations on communities around the world, and this can have significant impacts.

“Many UK councils have rightly opposed fracking in their own area – however, it is shocking that they still support the global fracking industry.

“We should remember too that the climate change caused by fracking will affect us all, no matter where the fracking is conducted.”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “Our approach to investing the pension fund is set out in the council’s Pension Fund Investment Strategy Statement.

“This considers social, environmental and ethical considerations in the context of our legal and fiduciary duties in managing the fund.”

This document says that the council’s pension fund panel considers the fund’s approach to responsible investment in two key areas:

‘Sustainable investment/ESG factors, by considering the financial impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors on its investments; and

‘Stewardship and governance, by acting as responsible and active investors, through considered voting of shares, and engaging with investee company management as part of the investment process’.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service