General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, Glenview, Ill., and the Wespath Investment Management division of the $21 billion pension fund announced on Thursday two new investment guidelines regarding climate change and countries involved with human rights violations.
The two new guidelines fall under the church’s investment policy, spokeswoman M. Colette Nies said.
The pension fund’s board and Wespath have already addressed environmental, social and governance issues in multiple ways. For example, Wespath debuted the Equities Social Values Plus Fund on Jan. 1, which holds U.S. and international equities using MSCI environmental, social and governance research and is subadvised by Northern Trust Asset Management. However, the new guidelines are intended to “provide direction for identifying and managing the excessive sustainability risk that could potentially affect the value of assets held on behalf of benefit plans and institutional investment clients,” according to a Q&A on the pension fund’s website.
The new climate change guidelines address the board’s belief that “production and consumption of thermal coal is not a sustainable business model,” and the human rights guidelines target countries that are “high-risk operating areas” and “conflict-affected areas where significant human rights violations have been widely documented.”