Securing a Pension Fund with Sustainable Investment

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Green.Org spoke with founder of The Climate Resilience Company, Henry Muss, about the importance of ensuring your pension fund is being invested into a sustainable source by your employer.

Hi Henry, can you tell us a little bit about you and your background?

I have over 20 years experience in the field of energy and carbon management. After my masters at Imperial (Environmental Analysis & Assessment) I was trained by the Carbon Trust to deliver Action Energy audits to SME’s in the southeast. I then delivered the Local Authority Energy Finance (LAEF) scheme for energy efficiency measures (insulation, lighting & renewable energy) at Croydon Council a London borough. That led to working with Halcrow and setting up Salix Finance the UK governments main funding vehicle for public sector carbon reduction which in 2020 funded £1bn of measures. I went on to work for CAMCO and delivered national programmes to support local authorities to write their Carbon Management Plans.

Looking for a change from consultancy, partly to make sure that measures actually got implemented, I went back to Imperial College as Environment Manager and wrote the colleges Carbon Management Plan and implemented a multi campus automatic metering (AMR) system that enabled real time consumption data on gas, electricity and water in 70 buildings. I then worked as Carbon Reduction Manager for an NHS Foundation Trust Hospital in London – Homerton. This role involved creating staff awareness campaigns, developing staff induction modules on sustainability, implementing measures such as LED lighting and voltage optimisation. It became apparent that the NHS carbon footprint was driven by a conveyor belt of sick people, so I moved into public health and set up projects on council estates that tackled obesity and mental health through fitness classes, cook and eat classes, community meals and intergenerational projects between nursery kids and residents of care homes.

In 2019 I became involved with Extinction Rebellion and became aware of the urgency for action on the climate and the lack of commitment shown by government. I was arrested in April along with 1,400 other activists and went on to stand as a London Member of European Parliament (MEP) candidate for the Climate & Ecological Emergency Independents. I moved back into carbon management in 2021 working for MACE as Senior Sustainability Manager on decarbonisation strategies then wrote the Green Plan for Croydon Hospital before going freelance in 2021 setting up The Climate Resilience Company. The Climate Resilience Company supports organisations on their net zero carbon strategies. With my experience I have been fortunate to have my writing being published in The Beam, Byline Times and Superscript.

What is a fun fact about you?

I have been living off grid on a wide beam canal boat on the River Lea in Hackney, London for three years. Its fabulous to live on the river there is a close connection to nature as well as being very aware of resources. I have four solar panels which help to charge up my batteries, for heating I use ecologs but sometimes have to use diesel! I hope to be able to filter river water in the future to improve resilience.

Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?

It’s been an important topic to me for twenty years! I think what has changed is a shift in consciousness in the public which has been bought about by activism like Fridays for the Future – Greta Thunberg & Extinction Rebellion combined with such extreme weather events globally. The war in Ukraine has focused just how geo politics is linked with energy resilience at the country level as well as how linked the global economy is to staples such as wheat, fertiliser and petrol costs. Hearing on the news that if everyone in Europe turned down their thermostats by 1 degree Celsius would cut Russian gas consumption by millions of cubic meters per day feels slightly surreal. The recent IPCC report on Climate Change has never been so adamant that our window for action to prevent run away climate change and tipping points is rapidly closing and threatening human society. It’s that awareness that we are not separate to nature and that the survival of our own species means we ensure we keep within planetary boundaries around carbon, biodiversity, air quality etc. makes this point in time so important.

What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?

I hope that within 10 years all companies will be well on their way to decarbonising their operations. We need to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and that means looking at ones own impacts (scope 1 & 2) and looking at ones supply chain and areas like business travel (scope 3). With respect to my industry I hope that the sector is buoyant and that decarbonisation strategies become the norm. In the UK there are 19m boilers that need to be replaced with renewable energy technologies like air source heat pumps and that is just the domestic sector. The environment sector can provide masses of good jobs in building fabric, low carbon heat and renewable energy installations. Accessing sustainable low carbon materials in areas such as construction will be a lot simpler, our cities will be healthier more pleasant place to live in as cars become electric and local authorities plant more trees and develop cycle routes.

What can the average person do to make a difference?

The most effective measure the average person can do to tackle climate change is to find out where their pension fund is being invested and to ensure that it is invested in sustainable funds. I challenged a recent employer whose default pension for 1000’s of staff was funding Shell Oil & Gas as well as Rio Tinto mining – one call to the fund manager changed my fund to a sustainable one and I then wrote a paper to encourage the organisation to make the sustainable fund the default. Oh and turn your heating thermostat down by 1degC!

Thanks Henry for your insightful words on decarbonising the future and ensuring our pension funds are being invested into sustainable sources.

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Charlie Bingham
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