For three-quarters (75 per cent) of institutional investors, climate change is now central to — or a significant factor in — their investment policies, a steep increase from only 34 per cent two years ago, according to a new survey by Robeco Institutional Asset Management.

The survey, which polled 300 of the world’s largest institutional investors in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, also found roughly half of respondents have publicly committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in their investment portfolio by 2050 or are in the process of making this commitment. However, just 11 per cent of North American respondents said they’re committed to reaching net zero, lagging behind their peers in Europe (40 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (31 per cent).

Notably, the number of respondents intending to divest from oil and gas companies over the next two years has doubled, from 11 per cent in 2020 to 22 per cent in 2022. More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of respondents are currently investing in sustainability-related themes — such as renewable energy or green technology — with European and Asia-Pacific investors leading in this area.

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Roughly three-quarters (73 per cent) of investment policies feature active ownership — which includes engagement and voting — as a central or significant factor, up from 54 per cent of policies in 2020. While this trend is strongest among European respondents (90 per cent in the next two years, up from 81 per cent), it’s also risen among respondents from North America (68 per cent, up from 60 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (82 per cent, up from 80 per cent).

Two-fifths (41 per cent) of respondents said biodiversity is a significant investment policy, up from 19 per cent two years ago. However, 50 per cent said implementation of this factor is still a challenge due to a lack of research data, ratings and company information. Moreover, 43 per cent cited a shortage of suitable investment products and strategies as an obstacle to taking account of biodiversity, while 46 per cent mentioned insufficient demand from end investors.

“The climate survey sheds light on how institutional investors view some of the key issues around climate change, biodiversity and stewardship,” said Lucian Peppelenbos, a climate strategist at Robeco, in a press release. “While there is uncertainty around these topics, we also know that we must take urgent action. We don’t have the luxury to wait for perfect data or perfect solutions. As investors, we need to pull up our sleeves and work our way through it, as we have the means to put money to work where it can make a difference.”

Read: COP26 highlighting importance of ESG, disclosure for institutional investors