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Mind the ESG knowledge gap as over half (55%) admit they don’t understand what sustainable investment is

  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of those surveyed are concerned about environmental issues but less than one in ten (9%) invest in funds that have sustainability criteria built in
  • Over half (55%) say they aren’t aware of or don’t understand the terms ‘responsible investment’, ‘sustainable investment’ or ‘ESG investing’.
  • While 13% say most of their investments follow a sustainable mandate, half of those asked didn’t know how much exposure they had to these sorts of funds.

Research carried out by Aegon UK among 10,000 people shows a knowledge gap when it comes to awareness and understanding of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles and how they apply to savings and investments.

Despite COP26 bringing the topic of sustainability to the fore, over half (55%) of those surveyed said that they aren’t aware of or don’t understand the terms ‘responsible investment’, ‘sustainable investment’ or ‘ESG investing’.

Figures do however show that ESG issues are of increasing importance for the majority, with nearly three quarters (72%) concerned about environmental issues, 61% worrying about equality, and 65% having concerns about poor corporate governance practice.

But while 80% recycle and 47% avoid single-use plastics, less than one in ten (9%) think of their pension savings as a way of supporting a more sustainable and inclusive society.

A significant number of those surveyed don’t understand or identify with the role that their savings can play in supporting a more sustainable world. While 13% say most of their investments follow a sustainable mandate, half of those asked didn’t know how much exposure they have to these sorts of funds.

Hilkka Komulainen, Head of Responsible Investment at Aegon UK said: “Our research shows the disparity that exists between people’s concern about environmental, social and governance issues, and their understanding of the role that pension saving has to play in supporting a more sustainable world. COP26 did a good job of raising awareness of sustainability issues but we need to educate and bring attitudes towards responsible pension saving in line with people’s behaviour in other areas.

“As pension scheme default funds increasingly integrate ESG criteria into mainstream investing, we want to help pension scheme members understand the relationship between their savings and the world they live in, encouraging a more meaningful connection between people’s pensions and where they are invested. At Aegon, we are focused on how we can support pension savers both through education and our wider responsible investment initiatives, including our commitment to net zero carbon emissions for default funds by 2050, and to halving emissions by 2030. As part of that we’ve already moved over £11.5 billion of default savings into strategies that consider ESG factors.”

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