Sarah explained that the Pension Trust was a £6 billion pension fund that caters for the "not for profit" sector. While its primary purpose is of course to meet its pension obligations, she doesn't think that companies paying a living wage is a huge investment problem. Pension funds are for the long term and believe in responsible investment. The Pension Trust recently became a Living Wage employer. The contract cleaners in their head office in Leeds had a pay rise of £1 per hour which has made a big difference to their lives.
Last speaker was James from ethical fund managers CCLA who were hosting this event. He quoted sections from the famous classical economic textbook "The Wealth of Nations" which appear to support the arguments for a living wage. He pointed out therefore that both the author Adam Smith and the Bank of England argue for a living wage.
In the Q&A I made a comment that as a pension trustee we believe that we will get better returns in the long run if we invest in well governed and responsible companies. For example, those who treat their staff well, who do not destroy the environment, bribe public officials etc. As investors we must be concerned with the substainablity of companies whose entire business model is dependent on paying its staff poverty wages and being reliant on state benefits to exist.