Cop-out: disappointed Brits put their faith in green pensions

Ffion White

by , PR Manager

08 Dec 2021 /  

Dec 2021

Bridge in nature

New research from leading online pension provider, PensionBee, has found that the majority of Brits (88%) don’t feel confident about the key agreements that arose from COP26.

In the weeks since the UK hosted world leaders for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), PensionBee has discovered that just 11% of Brits feel that the world is moving in a good direction, compared to almost half (45%) who believe that although the outcomes of the conference are good, they don’t go far enough. More than one in five savers (22%) report being unhappy with the results of COP26, while a further 22% feel the world’s governments won’t solve climate change.

In contrast, when asked about the power of investments to significantly cut carbon emissions, 72% of Brits expressed an interest in learning more or already believed it could drive real change. On average, a UK pension pot finances 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions through the businesses it invests in (1), and millions of UK savers may unknowingly be invested in high carbon emitters, by virtue of being in their default workplace scheme, as more than 95% of savers are (2).

Despite more than a quarter (26%) of respondents revealing that they are likely or very likely to switch to a green pension to reduce their emissions, only 1% of UK consumers report being currently invested in a green pension. Top barriers to switching include a belief that individuals don’t have a choice because their employers pick their plan (28%), not knowing how to switch as their pension feels very complex (13%), and believing that they’ve not saved enough for their pension investments to matter (12%).

These views highlight the importance of savers’ considering consolidating their workplace pensions into a fund that aligns with their vision for the future when they move jobs. It also reinforces the need for the pensions industry to provide digital solutions that enable savers to see how much they have saved and manage their pots simply.

Clare Reilly, Chief Engagement Officer at PensionBee, commented: “Our research highlights that most savers across the UK have little faith in the key agreements made by politicians at COP26, and instead believe in the power of their investments to decrease carbon emissions.

Since its launch last year, PensionBee’s Fossil Fuel Free Plan has attracted many new people to responsible investing. As evidenced in our recent survey, the plan has not only succeeded in engaging a mainstream audience in an important debate but also in widening participation for more people to use their pensions to address the climate crisis.. Every workplace should provide easy access to a simple green pension to engage their employees with saving, whilst helping them reduce their carbon emissions.”


Table 1: Attitudes to COP26 outcomes

Which statement best reflects your views about the outcomes of COP26? Proportion of respondents
The outcomes of COP26 are good but don’t go far enough 45%
The outcomes don’t matter to me, I have no faith that governments will solve climate change 22%
I’m unhappy with COP26, the outcomes are not sufficient 19%
I’m very happy with the outcomes of COP26, we’re moving in a good direction 11%
I’m very unhappy with COP26, it was a failure 3%
Other 1%

Source: PensionBee, December 2021. 249 respondents. Numbers have been rounded.

Table 2: Attitudes to responsible investment

According to the Make My Money Matter campaign, making your pension green can cut your carbon footprint 21 times more than becoming a vegetarian, giving up flying, and switching energy providers. A green pension is one that either excludes or limits investments in high carbon emitters, such as PensionBee’s Fossil Fuel Free Plan.

Which statement best reflects your reaction to Make My Money Matter’s statistics about reducing your emmissions by changing to a green pension? Proportion of respondents
I hadn’t thought of that before, but it completely makes sense 32%
It’s an interesting idea, and I’d like to learn more 26%
I don’t believe it, pensions will always be invested in companies with high carbon emissions 15%
I agree with this, I already believe in the power of investing to change the world around us 14%
It doesn’t matter. The purpose of my pension is to make money, leave climate change to governments. 13%

Source: PensionBee, December 2021. 249 respondents. Numbers have been rounded.

Table 3: Likelihood of switching to a green pension

How likely are you to switch to a green pension? Proportion of respondents
Very likely 4%
Likely 21%
Neither likely nor unlikely 46%
Unlikely 16%
Very unlikely 11%
I’m already invested in a green pension 1%

Source: PensionBee, December 2021. 250 respondents. Numbers have been rounded.

Table 4: Barriers to switching to a green pension

What is the main barrier to switching to a green pension? Proportion of respondents
My employer picks my pension, I don’t have a choice 28%
I don’t know how to change to a green pension, my pension feels very complex 13%
I don’t believe that I have enough saved for my pension investments to matter 12%
I don’t believe that a genuinely green pension exists 9%
I’m worried about paying higher fees/ taking more risk by investing in a green pension 9%
I hadn’t realised that my pension is invested in companies that create carbon emissions 9%
I’m worried about the performance of green pensions 8%
I’m worried there is a lot of greenwashing, and I don’t know how to find a truly green pension 6%
I don’t have the time for the admin required to switch plans 5%
Other 1%

Source: PensionBee, December 2021. 250 respondents. Numbers have been rounded.


  1. The Guardian
  2. The Pensions Regulator

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