The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is a Canadian Crown corporation that manages funds held in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Acting on behalf of 20 million Canadian contributors and beneficiaries, the CPP is one of the largest private equity investors in the world, with over $368.5 billion in its entire portfolio.15
As one of the world’s largest pension fund managers, CPPIB invests in domestic and global assets for the benefit of Canadian beneficiaries, affording it a considerable amount of influence over the country’s fossil fuel industry. Despite its claims to responsible investment, CPPIB’s extensive oil and gas holdings suggest the board is betting that governments will not take serious action on climate change, making it one of our Top 50 enablers.
Head office: Toronto, Ontario
Net assets: C$356.1 billion16
CPPIB claims to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations “alongside other investment considerations,” meaning that it will not exclude (or “screen”) companies from its investment portfolio based on ESG considerations alone.1 Instead, CPPIB leans heavily on shareholder engagement as the cornerstone of its due diligence for responsible investment.
As part of its engagement practice, CPPIB participates in collaborative investment initiatives such as the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, organizations that aim to leverage investor membership to promote improved corporate accountability.2 However, by appealing to large groups of diverse institutional investors and failing to impose any binding requirements for membership beyond disclosure practices, these initiatives have failed to move the needle on climate action. Research suggests that shareholder engagement activities often have little to no impact on a company’s emissions, particularly when directed at fossil fuel companies.3
Meanwhile, CPPIB’s carbon-heavy investments include Canadian Natural Resources Limited ($1.2 billion), Seven Generations Energy ($901 million), Enbridge ($287 million) and TransCanada ($209 million).4 CPPIB owns significant shares in Canadian banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels, such as the Royal Bank of Canada (CPPIB owns $750 million in shares) and the Toronto-Dominion Bank ($695 million).5
CPPIB’s private equity holdings in oil and gas are also significant. CPPIB owns 99 per cent of Wolf Midstream, an investment vehicle that purchases shares in oil pipelines throughout the country. The company holds full ownership of the Access Pipeline Inc, a system of pipelines which will be expanded to carry both diluted bitumen (dilbit) and natural gas from Alberta to Edmonton. Its purchase of the company in 2018 from MEG Energy includes a 30-year supply agreement,6
locking in a commitment to fossil fuel production that transgresses Canada’s Paris commitments to transition away from fossil fuels before 2050. Commenting on its interest in the Access pipeline, CPPIB described the investment as a “strategic cornerstone asset” aligned with its intention to expand its ownership share of Canadian oil pipelines over time.7
During the price slump in Canadian crude oil, CPPIB carried out a series of large-scale purchases to increase its share in private oil investments, including a purchase of Penn West Petroleum’s oil assets for $975 million in 2016. In 2017 it purchased Royal Dutch Shell’s $1.3 billion interest in the Corrib offshore natural gas project off Ireland’s coast.8 Following the deal, CPPIB shares ownership of the Corrib project with Statoil ASA and Vermilion Energy. CPPIB stated in a release that the purchase was aligned with its strategy to purchase resources operated by third parties.9
The “Wild West” of Canadian pension funds
Canadian pension plans have begun to gain international attention for their high returns and skyrocketing executive salaries, and CPPIB is no exception. The CPPIB’s assets have ballooned in recent years, going from C$153.2 billion in 2011 to C$356.1 billion in 2018.
Canadian pension fund managers such as the CPPIB have gained a global reputation for taking on high-risk investments amassing substantial returns. According to CPPIB, its “arm’s length” relationship to government is critical to its relative success.10 Canadian pension plans were among the first to take equity stakes in corporations in the 1990s. Now, with significant investments in derivatives and other high-risk debt mechanisms, their portfolios now carry some of the highest risks among global asset owners.11
Meanwhile, pension fund managers such as CPPIB spend lavishly on salaries for their executive staff: CPPIB’s CEO, Mark Machin, for example, makes nearly $6 million in annual pay, and other investment executives earn $3 million each.12 Recent federal bills to reform the CPP signify that its power and influence will continue to grow exponentially: a recent act sanctioned a gradual 48-fold increase, meaning that CPP will have access to a considerably larger pool of funds in the coming decades.13
Insufficient disclosure practices
CPPIB’s disclosure of its external management practices is unsatisfactory: over 60 asset managers invest the CPPIB’s externally managed investments, and CPPIB does not disclose the percentage of total assets invested by other managers.14
Learn more about the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board at LittleSis.org
The intent of the Corporate Mapping Project database is to engage Canadians in a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel sector in our democracy, by “mapping” how power and influence play out in the oil, gas and coal industries of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
CPPIB, 2018 Annual Report: Investing for Contributors & Beneficiaries, http://www.cppib.com/documents/1800/CPPIB_F2018_Annual_Report_English.pdf.