With COP26 in Glasgow approaching in just a few months’ time, and our Net Zero Pensions work stream in full swing, the team at GEFI wanted to get a sense of how the last two years of the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted investment habits across the country. 

In a recent survey conducted in collaboration with YouGov, we questioned 1,002 adults between the 12th – 16th August 2021 to understand whether the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on where members of the public want to invest their money and the trust they place in financial institutions in the aftermath of the IPPC’s declaration of a code red for  humanity. The results painted an interesting picture and showed signs that young people are leading the charge when it comes to responsible investing in a post-pandemic world. 

With Scotland’s proud history as a global centre for ethical finance- a legacy GEFI has consistently championed through our events and advocacy work- a clear public commitment to ethical finance was to be expected. Unsurprisingly, 66% of our respondents thought that financial institutions have a vital role to play in tackling the climate emergency and 36% only want their money invested in companies that have a positive impact on the environment even if it means lower returns- a consensus that broadly mirrored the results of GEFI’s 2019 survey. 

One of the most striking takeaways from this year’s assessment is the emergence of young people wanting to know where their money is going, and what impact it will have on the planet. Almost a quarter (24%) of survey participants said the Covid-19 pandemic has increased their interest in where their money is being invested. Moreover, 37% of all 18-34s said they will take more proactive steps to invest their money more responsibly going forward.  

But while the appetite for responsible investment is increasing, the results also indicate that there is still work to be done on educating the public about the impact of their individual pension pot. As our survey results indicated, a staggering 78% of Scots don’t consider themselves to be financial investors even though the same proportion of Scots have a pension that will be invested in global financial markets. Similarly, the last government figures from a 2019 survey showed that Scots had nearly £600bn invested in their pensions (Source: https://data.gov.scot/wealth/2020report.html), yet only 15% of Scots with pensions actively choose how their money is invested and 20% don’t know how their money is invested. So how can financial institutions act more responsibly, and what can members of the public do to see their pension pot help to deliver positive change for people and planet? 

Tony Burdon, CEO of Make My Money Matter suggests an answer may lie in both public awareness and renewed commitments from financial service institutions to deliver Net Zero. 

“This survey adds to the growing mountain of evidence showing loud and clear that people want their money to help tackle the climate crisis, rather than fuel the fire”, he commented. “With trillions saved in UK pensions, it’s undoubtably one of the most powerful weapons we have to help protect our planet and build a future we’d all want to retire into.”  

Through a series of papers, workshops and events to support pension providers in our Net Zero Pensions work stream, GEFI is committed to assisting pension providers in overcoming challenges and increasing emissions transparency and developing tangible plans to make and deliver on net zero commitments. With public appetite for using finance to act on climate change peaking in the run up to COP26, and with young people leading the charge, the need to provide a clear path towards responsible investment choices is arguably more urgent than ever.  

If you require advice on your sustainable finance journey, the Global Ethical Finance Institute’s dedicated advisory team can help guide you. To find out more about how your pension can benefit the planet – or want to know more about GEFI’s Path to COP campaign and events series – you can visit www.pathtocop.org  

Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th – 16th August 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).


You can read GEFI’s full press release here