Ties between pension fund directors and fossil fuels are ‘incompatible’ for some Canadians

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Regardless of mounting stress from Canadians who need their cash to cease supporting oil and fuel, nearly all of the nation’s largest pension fund managers proceed to put money into that sector — and are led by people with shut ties to fossil gas firms.

CBC Information reviewed publicly-available bios and resumes of leaders overseeing Canada’s 10 largest pension fund managers and located that eight organizations have no less than one high-ranking member, both a board member or an govt, who’s actively directing an organization within the oil or fuel sector. 

These firms embrace oil and fuel manufacturing corporations, pipeline operators, gasoline retailers and drilling rig contractors. 

Present legal guidelines and laws don’t bar administrators from holding roles at pension funds and corporations within the oil and fuel sector.

“There’s nothing unsuitable with a director being on multiple board. There’s nothing in regulation that prohibits you from doing so,” mentioned company governance professional and Osgoode Corridor Legislation College Prof. Barnali Choudhury. 

Nonetheless, Choudhury mentioned she understands why it’d elevate questions for some. She inspired members with considerations to contact their pensions to advocate for stronger local weather motion. 

CBC Information spoke with a number of individuals who have been doing precisely that — advocating for their pension funds to divest from oil and fuel. Ties between board members and oil and fuel firms have them questioning whose pursuits are really being prioritized.

‘I will … put money into one thing that I do know is harming you’

Teri Burgess teaches Grade 4 in Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island in B.C. She mentioned kids right now are rising up beneath the shadow of a altering local weather, and the concept that a part of her paycheque could contribute to that’s past irritating.

“It is ridiculous to suppose that [pension directors] can serve the wants of their members in addition to sit on one other board,” mentioned Burgess, who has two sons.

Teri Burgess, a Grade 4 instructor in British Columbia, is pictured along with her two sons. (Submitted by Teri Burgess)

Burgess is attending her union’s annual normal assembly this weekend, the place she plans to assist motions advocating for the British Columbia Lecturers’ Federation to foyer their pension to divest. 

Members have known as for divestment up to now, however Burgess and others say they have not seen almost sufficient progress. 

In keeping with a 2022 funding stock replace on BCI’s web site, the pension fund supervisor holds shares in a spread of oil and fuel firms together with ConocoPhillips, the corporate behind the controversial Willow oil drilling venture in Alaska.

Burgess mentioned she would not need her revenue invested in key drivers of greenhouse fuel emissions.

“I do not know any colleague of mine in any college who desires to face on the entrance of the room and say, ‘Hey children … I will proceed to put money into one thing that I do know is harming you.’”

Burgess’s pension fund is managed by the British Columbia Funding Administration Company (BCI). Its govt vice-president and international head of infrastructure and renewable assets, Lincoln Webb, can also be the chair of the supervisory board of pure fuel transmission community Open Grid Europe, and a board member of Czech Fuel Networks.

Neither Webb nor BCI’s media relations group responded to CBC’s a number of makes an attempt to get in contact for remark.

In the meantime, BCI has acknowledged in earlier statements that “local weather change poses a systemic danger to the worth of our shoppers’ portfolios and to the worldwide financial system” and mentioned it supported “the worldwide path of internet zero.”

It is one instance of how, regardless of various levels of local weather commitments and net-zero insurance policies from eight of Canada’s largest pension fund managers, there proceed to be overlaps between the oil and fuel business and people funds, which signify a complete of about $1.96 trillion in internet property.

Whose pursuits are they looking for?

It is merely “incompatible” to have pension board members sitting on oil and fuel firms, in line with retired economist Roy Culpeper. 

Culpeper, who lives in Ottawa, used to work within the federal division of finance. One of many administrators of his pension fund supervisor — PSP Investments — is Miranda Hubbs, who additionally serves on the board of Imperial Oil.

“It appears to me … unimaginable to serve each the pursuits of a significant fossil gas firm on the one hand, and the pursuits of the pension fund and its beneficiaries alternatively,” Culpeper mentioned.

Whereas day-to-day funding selections aren’t typically made by board members, they do usually set technique and approve overarching funding insurance policies.

Culpeper’s concern is echoed by Andy Kroeker, govt director of the West Elgin Neighborhood Well being Centre in southwestern Ontario. 

“I do not see how that battle can’t be an actual one,” he mentioned. 

Kroeker’s pension fund — HOOPP — represents Ontario healthcare employees and already has a tobacco-free funding coverage. 

Like tobacco, Kroeker mentioned local weather change is a risk to folks’s well being and must be handled the identical. 

“I feel HOOPP is making some strides … however my expectation is full divestment,” he mentioned. 

Andy Kroeker, govt director of the West Elgin Neighborhood Well being Centre in southwestern Ontario, introduced in HOOPP to his workplace partly as a recruitment software for hiring employees. He mentioned as a pension that represents healthcare employees, it is sensible for the fund to divest from fossil fuels. (Carolyn Hicks Productions)

Pension fund managers deny battle of curiosity

CBC reached out to every pension group and particular person named on this story. None of them agreed to an interview. Three responded with written statements.

A spokesperson for the Canada Pension Plan Funding Board mentioned through e mail that “it doesn’t make sense to counsel there’s a battle of curiosity as a result of a director has expertise in a single particular space.” 

The CDPQ highlighted that as of June of final yr, it had divested from 90 per cent of its oil manufacturing property, and mentioned the board member who works with Texas oil and fuel exploration firm Pioneer Pure Sources has a deal with local weather and sustainable investments.

A spokesperson for AIMCo mentioned “board members aren’t chosen on the premise of their specific sectoral expertise, however relatively the complement of expertise and acumen that they convey.”

For the aim of transparency, CBC additionally reviewed the record of board members and managers by itself pension plan. None of them had obvious ties to firms within the oil or fuel sector.

Canadian pension funds lag behind others

Sustainable finance group Shift Motion tracks the local weather commitments of Canada’s largest pensions and not too long ago graded their sustainability in a report card

Patrick Derochie, senior supervisor for Shift Motion, mentioned whereas some funds are exhibiting indicators of progress via net-zero targets and extra funding in renewable power, there’s nonetheless an extended approach to go.

“Canada is behind on this challenge,” Derochie mentioned.

The New York state pension fund and Europe’s largest pension fund (APB) have each made the choice to drop fossil gas shares. 

In Canada, the Quebec pension fund supervisor CDPQ is the one one which has dedicated to excluding oil producers from their portfolio, however not fuel.

Patrick Derochie, senior supervisor with Shift Motion, mentioned there’s each a local weather danger and a monetary danger to investing in oil and fuel firms. Even when these firms are getting cash within the short-term, he mentioned the business is dealing with decline. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

“The funding selections of those pension funds can decide how shortly we shift away from fossil fuels, how shortly we scale back carbon emissions,” Derochie mentioned. 

Derochie wonders whether or not administrators who’re on the boards of fossil gas firms try to advance the pursuits of oil and fuel on the pension fund.

“That pension fund director who has to serve the pursuits of Imperial Oil … that is a really totally different factor than the most effective pursuits of you or I.”

Who’re the pension fund leaders with ties to grease and fuel?

Judith Athaide:

  • Board member with Canada Pension Plan Funding Board (CPPIB).
  • Board member with Kiwetinohk Power Corp. (Alberta-based pure fuel producer).

Maria Jelescu Dreyfus:

  • Board member at Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ, Quebec’s pension fund supervisor).
  • Board member with Pioneer Pure Sources (Texas oil and fuel exploration and manufacturing firm).

Ashleigh Everett:

  • Board member with CPPIB, in addition to president.
  • Company secretary and director of Royal Canadian Securities Restricted (holding firm of gasoline retailer Domo Gasoline).

Brian Gibson:

  • Board chair with Funding Administration Company of Ontario (IMCO).
  • Board member with Precision Drilling Company (Alberta-based oil and fuel drilling rig contractor).

Miranda Hubbs:

  • Board member with the Public Sector Pension Funding Board (PSPIB).
  • Board member with Imperial Oil (Canadian petroleum refiner, crude oil and pure fuel producer).

Lorraine Mitchelmore:

  • Board member with Alberta Funding Administration Company (AIMCo).
  • Board member with Suncor (Alberta-based oil producer and refinery).
  • Board member with Cheniere Power (Texas-based proprietor and operator of liquefied pure fuel terminals).

Barry Perry:

  • Board member with CPPIB.
  • Board member with Capital Energy (Alberta energy era firm which owns and operates pure fuel, photo voltaic, and wind era amenities).

Debbie Stein:

  • Board member with the Ontario Lecturers’ Pension Plan (OTPP).
  • Board member with Washington Fuel.
  • Board member with NuVista Power (oil and fuel exploration, improvement and manufacturing firm). 
  • Board member with Parkland Company (Alberta-based provider of gas and operator of Chevron, Pioneer, Ultramar and Esso), board member with Trican Nicely Service (supplies gear and companies for oil and fuel wells).

Lincoln Webb:

  • Government vice-president and head of infrastructure and renewable Sources at BCI.
  • Chair of the supervisory board of Open Grid Europe (pure fuel transmission community).
  • Board member with Czech Fuel Networks.

Nicholas Zelenczuk:

  • Board member with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP.)
  • Board member with Teine Power (Alberta-based oil and fuel exploration, improvement and manufacturing firm).

Ties between pension fund directors and fossil fuels are ‘incompatible’ for some Canadians

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