Our approach to stewardship

Stewardship means using our power as investors to encourage companies to improve.

When it comes to the money your members invest in their pensions, it’s about talking to the companies we invest in (on their behalf) to manage risk and deliver value, as well as driving positive change. This is achieved using engagement and voting and in partnership with investment managers.

What is stewardship?

In the UK Stewardship Code 2020 the Financial Reporting Council says:

"Stewardship is the responsible allocation, management and oversight of capital to create long-term value for clients and beneficiaries leading to sustainable benefits for the economy, the environment and society."

We've committed to measure ourselves by this standard, and we believe that it is the responsibility of ourselves and of our asset management partners to engage with the companies we invest in to drive better behaviour and influence positive change. It's why good stewardship is such an important part of our responsible investment approach.

Routes to stewardship

By our in-house team

Our stewardship team engages directly with companies based on our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) research.

In collaboration with other investors

Joining forces with other peer shareholders to raise concerns with the companies in which we invest.

Through our asset managers

Our asset management partners conduct stewardship activities on our behalf.

How do we carry out stewardship?

In terms of actually influencing decision-making and actions which affect company activities, there are two main ways of doing this: voting, and engagement.

Our approach to stewardship is based on dialogue, feedback, relationships and clear objectives.

When it comes to voting, your members can't vote directly with companies that they have exposure to through their workplace pension plan investments. This is a responsibility which lies with the asset managers who manage the fund. So, where voting rights exist, our asset managers will vote on your members' behalf.

We go further than this; we make sure that all of our asset management partners have a voting policy in place and vote in line with this policy. Part of our due diligence exercise is to make sure that this policy reflects our philosophy and our approach to responsible investment.

We have also developed a set of Global Voting Principles summarising our expectations of companies on sound corporate governance practices in addition to the management of social and environmental risks and opportunities. We are using these principles as a framework of reference to assess the voting performance of asset management partners.

How we support effective stewardship of assets for our trust-based clients

Standard Life aims to support trustees in delivering on their fiduciary duties linked to stewardship by offering several services including an off-the-shelf stewardship policy template and representation in collaborative engagements.

You can find more information on how we support effective stewardship of assets for our clients in the Standard Life Approach to Stewardship guide.

In this video, you'll hear about our position on effective stewardship, our approaches to engage with the asset managers and how we can support your scheme with regulatory requirements in the context of the recent DWP guidance from Valeria Piani.

What we ask our asset managers to do

We expect asset managers to use stewardship to influence the performance, corporate governance and sustainability of the companies we invest in.

Sign up

Be a signatory to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment and adopt the 2020 UK Stewardship Code (or an equivalent in their jurisdiction) and respond to the Asset Owner Diversity Charter questionnaire


Define criteria to identify a list of specific companies to engage with


Use internal and external ESG research to monitor and assess the companies they invest in on our behalf


Managers place votes on our behalf, applying a proxy voting policy that takes our views into consideration


Set engagement objectives and escalate if progress isn't made. Drive better performance from the companies they invest in on our behalf


Update us regularly on all engagement and voting activities

Target net zero

Support our journey to net zerostrategy
and implement our exclusion policy

Our priorities for engagement

We’ve listened to customers and colleagues as well as carrying out our own analysis to identify key themes to address with our stewardship activity. These are our current priorities:

  • climate change - climate change presents both risks and opportunities for the companies we invest in
  • human rights - we believe that the responsibility to respect human rights applies to all companies
  • nature - we recognise the need for companies to protect and restore the planet’s natural resources
  • controversies linked to United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) breaches - we expect companies to follow international standards on human rights, labour rights, environmental and climate change issues, and anti-bribery and corruption efforts.

Find out more about our asset managers

You and your members can find out more about some of our main asset management partners and their approaches to stewardship and voting here:

abrdn information on stewardship voting disclosure
BlackRock information on stewardship voting disclosure
Vanguard information on stewardship voting disclosure

You can also read our full group wide stewardship policy, and access other relevant documents below:


External asset managers

As well as our main asset management partners, we work with managers who run External Fund Links (EFLs) – which means we can offer more investment choice for customers. Standard Life does not have direct control over the way external funds are run, but we still encourage these asset managers to sign up to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

The PRI is a world leader and champion of responsible investment. It helps companies to put responsible investment into action.

You can find out which of our EFL asset managers have signed up to the PRI here:
Asset manager PRI signatories

Or you can look up an asset manager on the PRI signatory website


What next?