No pension scheme has so committed itself to the cause of preventing climate change as Cushon.Ben Pollard told me that it would take me 27 years of recycling my household waste to do as much for the planet as I would do making my pension pot carbon neutral. We have the capacity to reduce carbon emissions by 23.3 tonnes by joining Cushon with an average pension pot.
Along with Tony Burdon of Make my Money Matter (pictured below), Ben spoke of the work he was doing at the Cushon Mastertrust with conviction and affecting humility. He seemed embarrassed by his passion, finishing his presentation with what he called “cheese”. It is not cheesy to believe in what you do- Ben!
There is a disconnect here and Ben and his team have spotted it. People care enough to do 27 years of household recycling. We buy electric cars or (like my son and Sally Bridgeland) refuse to have a car! Understanding the power of social rather than financial economics has made Tesla what it is today.
We are prepared to make sacrifices for the future, because it is our future. But Pensions are the sleeping giants.
Because people care about the climate, they want to invest in a way that sustains their and their loved ones future. How long till bosses have to start justifying their pension schemes on the basis of their position on carbon emissions?
Over the past year we have seen Nest then BT then LGPS then Phoenix then Aegon commit to reduce the carbon footprint of their pension schemes. But massive as these commitments are, none has impacted on me in the way Cushon has, because none has been driven by the passionate conviction shown by Ben.
There is no shame in being commercial with a heart as we need our pension schemes as well as out planet – to be sustainable.
Financial technology’s place in this
Talking with Ben Pollard after the presentation from which these slides are taken, I learned about the technology used to assess the footprint of the Cushon pension. Each fund is deconstructed and individual stocks assessed, using generally available data. So Cushon is not dependent on its fund manager or platform manager to understand how short it is of being carbon zero, it has the information to hand.
Speaking later to Roger Mattingly, Cushon’s Trustee Chair, it was clear that the Trustees see part of their role to make sure that the data is accurate and that it is Cushon and not the members who pay for any shortfall (by purchasing offsets through Vertree). Knowing the other trustees, I would have confidence in their tenacity. The business model depends on trust – inevitably the algorithm that drives the model is a black box, in Mattingly, Parr, Day and Warwick-Thompson we trust.
If Cushon cannot reduce the 23 tons per pension to zero by 2026, the shareholders will continue to subsidise the members ambition until the target is reached and maintained. This is a 21st century guarantee that is underwritten by the financial institutions behind Cushon, this is a model of social capital that introduces a new mutuality of interest and i love it!
Speed and direction matter
There is an urgency about all this which is refreshing and invigorating. Firms like mine learn from Cushon and I hope there are parts of my business that can help Cushon deliver more to its customers. Cushon talks to its customers through their phones and the journeys its app takes its members on, include more than pensions. But that is just confetti.
The real value of Cushon is in its adoption of the Zeitgeist of investment today, people’s desire to make their money matter, to get involved in where their money goes and how the investments are stewarded (doffing my cap to Tumelo who are part of this). That value is unlocked and realised by technology but also by the passion and conviction of Ben Pollard and his team.
We should want Cushon to succeed, for it is leading us in the right direction