Download this Call: Call-Uclouvain-Sustainable Investments in Pensions

                   Sustainable Pensions through Sustainable Investments?

                                                  Call for Contributions

Workshop University of Louvain, Belgium, Monday the 25th of May 2020

I.                The SAS Pensions Project at UCLouvain

The provision of replacement incomes (pensions) for elderly people is one of the main achievements of modern advanced economies. Historically, the State and other entities successfully organized the provision of public pensions. There is no doubt that this contributed to the wellbeing of elderly citizens. It is also likely to have played a significant role in the reduction of old-age poverty. However, public pension budgets are now increasingly challenged by demographic, economic and financial developments, namely rapid population ageing and increasing longevity combined with slow(er) economic growth and public budgets under pressure. Hence, policymakers around the world are confronted with the challenging task of reforming existing pension systems.

In September 2018 an interdisciplinary research project called “SAS Pensions” was created at the University of Louvain (Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium) with the aim to critically assess what are the key conditions that public pension systems should fulfill to be successfully reformed. See https://saspensions.wordpress.com/

The hypothesis of the project is that there are three main conditions; hence the ‘SAS’ acronym:

  1. financial sustainability
  2. social adequacy 
  3. safe governance.

The researchers involved in this research project want to identify the pension architecture that is the most likely to generate SAS pensions.

  1. The general description of the Call for contributions

In the framework of the SAS Pensions project, the steering committee of the network is launching a call for an upcoming academic workshop and a book (or special issue) on the normative challenges pertaining to “Sustainable Pensions” in the broader context of “Sustainable Finance”.  It wants to assemble valuable scientific contributions on the topic, to be exposed at a workshop organized in Louvain-La-Neuve (UCLouvain) on Monday the 25th of May 2020 and published in book (or special issue) scheduled for early Autumn 2020.

Indeed, pension policy is about social policy. But it also possesses a financial facet, considering its links to saving rates, corporate finance & behavior and insurance market.

Amongst pension reforms, with variation in intensity and from one State to another, the following trends are to be noticed.

  • A growing importance is given to “non-State furnished” pensions products such as:
  • complementary pension plans, be they mandatory, quasi-mandatory or non-mandatory and sometimes involving “intermediary bodies” such as trade unions or affiliates’ representatives.
  • personal pensions.
  • Accordingly, the financial responsibilities and retirement risks are shifted from the State towards beneficiaries and/or non-State actors (employers/employees) if we consider:
  • the growing importance of defined contributions plans’ compared to defined benefits’ ones
  • the introduction of market mechanisms and/or individualization techniques into both public and private plans: pre-funded pensions; notional accounts, emulation of (ex)portability of rights throughout EU, fiscally (prudent) support for annuities markets, etc.

Moreover, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, regulators must keep addressing the possibly negative fallout of financial markets on pension accounts. More risk sharing, long-term investments in the European internal market, better supervision, the encouragement of conservative investments are potential solutions that have been considered accordingly.

In coherence and/or in response to the above-mentioned trends, the promotion of Sustainable Investments is progressively highlighted on the part of lawmakers, regulators, and market players. In the field of Pensions, emerging normative trends are observable if we consider, namely and at the EU level, the IORP II directive, the PEPP regulation, the EIOPA’s contributions on sustainable finance and, the 24 May 2018 EU Commission legislative package on sustainable finance.

  • The research issues to be analyzed in the Call

The SAS steering committee is looking for contributions that address topics related to sustainable pensions, through theoretical or applied approaches. Methodologically, the legal perspective is to be emphasized, but economics, public finance or political sciences’ contributions are also welcomed. The following topics serve as examples, though non-exhaustive ones.

  • What are the challenges for the establishment of a definition of “sustainability” in the field of pensions (see, notably the EU High Level Group of experts on Sustainable Finance)? What about the stability of SRI/ESG concepts? Are they clear enough to serve as legal principles and/or normative tools? In what prior direction should the legal/regulatory research go?
  • What are the teachings of the Sustainable Finance debates for the understanding of pension reforms? What about the integration of sustainable finance in pension regulation?
  • As far as sustainable pensions are concerned, what is the depth of EU regulatory trends? Is it about wishful thinking? Soft recommendations? Is it only about transparency/disclosure? Is it something more substantial?
  • What are the theoretical justifications for imposing such considerations on pension providers? As far as pension funds are concerned, how can we combine diversification requirements with an eventual active investing in dedicated investments?
  • How can pension institutions or vehicles grasp the possible “SRI[1]/ESG[2] oriented” preferences of the beneficiaries? What are the legal challenges/constraints thereof, considering the classical legal approach of fiduciary duties?
  • What are the intellectual and practical links between the debate on institutional investors (e.g. pension funds) and pension reforms?
  • Concerning employment and social security legislations, in a labor market which is experiencing a rise in non-standard forms of employment – self-employment, temporary work and independent contracting – what are the challenges for a sustainable pension income? Furthermore, what are the potential avenues for reforming the pension system? How can we enable workers to manage the economic and financial risks related to their employment transitions?

 

  1. The practical details

We invite applicants to submit abstracts of about 500 words (not including the bibliography). As mentioned, contributions should focus on hard and/or soft law aspects, analyzing them from a legal, and/or social sciences perspective.

Abstract submissions should come at the latest by 15 February 2020. Contributors will be accepted for the conference and notified on an ongoing basis around the 15 February 2020.

Organizers welcome the submission of proposals for a poster presentation. The selected poster presentation will be displayed throughout the workshop. Furthermore, posters’ authors will be held previously in the «elevator pitch format» (5 minutes) in determined session. A speaker’s certificate will be given to its authors.

Moreover, with regard to researchers’ groups, the organizers welcome the submission of proposals for full panel sessions addressing the topics describes in this call. Panels should consist of three papers and one speaker whose could be the panel’s leader. Proposals should be submitted by the panel’s leader at the latest by 15 February 2020 and should indicate in one single document:

  • the title of the proposed panel and papers;
  • the name of the discussant and participants;
  • an abstract of each paper about 500 words (not including the bibliography).

Selected authors (both abstract and panel proposals) written contributions (maximum 10.000 words including bibliography) should be submitted for the 30 June 2020.

To facilitate participation in this event, the SAS’ Scientific Committee offers funding grants to excellent abstracts presented by both PhD students and young scholars (max. 3 years after PhD). The scholarship would be able to cover – within certain limits – both travel and accommodation expenses.

For submitting abstracts, and any questions, please email dr. Prof. Alexia Autenne at alexia.autenne@uclouvain.be or dr. Maria-Cristina Degoli at maria-cristina.degoli@uclouvain.be. Extensive description of the project and further editorial information on the call can be found via our website (https://saspensions.wordpress.com/ )

[1] For Socially Responsible Investments.

[2] For Environmental, Social and Governance friendly.