Despite being recognised for the strength of its stewardship, Brunel Pension Partnership found itself at the sharp end of the ESG agenda earlier this year.
A report published by Hong Kong Watch and a professor at Sheffield Hallam University had included the pool on a list of investors with high exposure to companies in the Xinjiang province of China.
Xinjiang is the region in which more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups have been incarcerated by the Chinese government, a policy condemned by many nations with claims of forced labour and even cultural and physical genocide by international observers.
Brunel had been incorrectly identified by the report as running an emerging markets passive portfolio. As a passive portfolio would simply replicate the index, this would expose the pool to companies linked to forced labour in Xinjiang.
In fact, Brunel’s emerging market portfolio is active and had the report’s information been correct, the pool would not have appeared on the list. The report immediately requested the lead academic and Hong Kong Watch to correct the error and to post a retraction.
A statement on Brunel’s website said: “We are committed to human rights and social issues as one of our core responsible investment thematic priorities and we report on our progress annually in this area.
“Such mistakes can therefore be deeply damaging.”
By the end of November, Brunel reported that the external report had been corrected.