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Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in October 2021, the UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, said that pension schemes could become a “superpower” in fighting climate change and propelling the world to net zero. But to what extent does the legal landscape within which pension schemes allow them to perform this role, and to what extent should they be performing this role?

In this article, we seek to answer those questions by way of a high-level comparative analysis of the extent to which the law in the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Australia and Canada currently promotes, or even permits, pension schemes to account for ESG factors by way of investment, stewardship and reporting. Our findings highlight significant differences in the extent to which these legal landscapes encourage and/or require pension schemes to engage with climate change.


This document was first published on 4 April 2022 in the 95th edition of International Pension Lawyer – Journal of the International Pensions & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association

Associate Elizabeth Harker co-authored this article.


Chantal Thompson has extensive experience advising clients on all aspects of UK pensions law. She is a partner in the Firm's Pensions practice group in London, a core member of Baker McKenzie’s Global Pensions Group, and serves on the International Committee of the 1,000-member Association of Pension Lawyers. She is a member of the Management Committee and chairs the Personnel Sub-Committee of London Cyrenians Housing Limited, and frequently speaks at seminars and courses on multiple aspects of pension law.


Paul is a UK-qualified associate director in the Employment & Compensation practice who specializes in pensions law in the UK and South Africa. He also has experience in advising on pensions law in other sub-Saharan African jurisdictions. Paul is a former president of the Pension Lawyers Association of South Africa and a former member of the Legal & Technical Committee of the Institute of Retirement Funds Africa. He is currently assisting the Pension Policy Institute with a research series into climate change and ESG investing.

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