FairPensions grew out of a highly successful university-based campaign in the late 1990s which saw academics and students work together to transform the investment policy of the University Superannuation Scheme (USS). The Ethics for USS campaign engaged thousands of academics and administrators at Universities and Colleges across the UK.
As a result of the campaign, the USS, then the 3rd largest occupational fund in the UK, formally adopted a socially responsible and sustainable investment policy, taking the crucial step of hiring staff to ensure the policy was properly enacted. The USS has remained a national leader in responsible investment ever since.
As Rob Gray, Professor of Accounting at Glasgow University and convenor of the Ethics for USS campaign states, “the effect has been stunning”.
This pioneering campaign, driven by committed members of the USS pension fund together with the student organisation People & Planet, proved that Responsible Investment has enormous potential to advance corporate accountability and address environmental and social wrongs, while maintaining good returns for fund members.
Recognising the potential of this precedent for the wider pensions industry, Meredith Alexander, an officer at People & Planet, started work to establish a national organisation that would promote Responsible Investment right across the industry.
Following discussions with other civil society organisations, including WWF, Amnesty International, and Friends of the Earth, FairPensions was founded in 2005 (initially named ‘Fairshare Educational Foundation’) with Alex van der Velden as the organisation’s founder and first chief Executive. In 2006 FairPensions was granted charitable status.