Sustainable Investment Awards 2021

Personality of the year: Faith Ward, Brunel Pension Partnership

As chief responsible investment officer of the Brunel Pension Partnership, Faith Ward has helped make the pension fund a sustainability leader, while simultaneously working with numerous influential bodies to drive change more broadly.

Faith WardHer work in this area began at the Environment Agency (EA) in 1997, where she led the Environment Agency Pension Fund (EAPF) to become the first asset owner to publish a plan to invest for a temperature rise of less than 2oC versus pre-industrial levels – ahead of the Paris Agreement.

When the EAPF was united with nine other funds to form Brunel Pension Partnership – one of eight Local Government Pension Scheme Pools, bringing together more than £30 billion of investments – Ward was appointed chief responsible investment officer of the new group.

In 2020, she launched Brunel’s first Climate Change Policy. The company engaged 130 asset managers and reviewed 530 investment strategies from a climate perspective as part of its fund development. In it, she described the financial system as “not fit for purpose” to address climate change.

Ward and her team also pioneered the publication of a new Responsible Investment and Outcomes Report, which looks at the company’s ESG and responsible investment (RI) performance across a range of themes, including climate change. She has also overseen publication of the Carbon Metrics Report, which provides detail on the carbon footprint of Brunel’s portfolios and their holdings. The depth of reporting she has enabled at Brunel goes far beyond regulatory requirements and fits with her belief that real progress requires radical transparency.

Ward adds that she is motivated by the stakeholder base of Brunel, saying the beneficiaries deal with numerous social and environmental issues, and “you want those issues to be reflected in the way the pension fund invests”.

“When the beneficiaries express pride in their pension fund, it means a lot to me. But they also push and challenge us to do more as well.”

As part of her day job, Ward has held several positions, including as chair of the Reporting and Assessment Advisory Committee to the Principles for Responsible Investment, where she has been at the forefront of setting the climate agenda for the financial sector worldwide.

In 2020, she was appointed chair of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, where she oversaw the delivery of what claims to be the first comprehensive investor framework for achieving net-zero carbon emissions. Thirty-eight investors, managing $8.5 trillion in assets, are already using the Net Zero Investment Framework.

Ward is on the steering committee of the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), a project she co-founded and, until earlier this year, co-chaired. The TPI’s framework is used by investors to assess companies’ readiness for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

She was also involved in the development of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and is now vice-chair of its Investor Advisory Group.

Climate ambitions

Ward says her current priority is “the implementation of net zero by asset owners”, including putting pressure on policymakers to create an enabling environment for investors’ net-zero ambitions.

Making taxonomies more “investor-friendly” is “another piece of the jigsaw”. She recently joined the Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) – a UK government-appointed expert group that will provide independent, non-binding advice on developing and implementing a UK green taxonomy.

She hopes the work of the GTAG will contribute to taxonomy developments globally and build on the work of the EU taxonomy.

One Environmental Finance Sustainable Investment Awards judge commented on Ward’s “track record and long-term personal commitment,” naming her “by far the most outstanding candidate” for the award. Another said, “the breadth and depth of Faith's wide-ranging contributions to the sustainable finance sector throughout her career are worthy of being recognised by her peers”.

However, Ward says “responsible investment has always been a team game”.

“I’ve had a lot of support at Brunel to go out there and make waves and push asset managers and policymakers outside their comfort zones…and what I have achieved was only possible thanks to what other asset owners and my peers have also delivered.

“We only get effectiveness by working collectively and supporting each other in these challenges,” she adds.