Landmark vegan case threatens to disrupt pensions industry

Nevertheless, Carolyn Saunders, head of pensions and long-term savings at Pinsent Masons, said the case illustrated the importance of trustees and providers understanding exactly how pension scheme assets were invested.

“Member interest in issues such as climate change can enhance engagement, but the flip side is the increased risk of criticism on trustees and providers for their investment choices. Strong governance around investment is essential so that choices can be justified,” she said.

Jane Kola, partner at Arc Pensions Law, said: “For defined contribution default funds, the primary objective is to provide good member outcomes and value for money.

“As the focus is on good financial outcomes for members, this presents real challenges in taking account of member beliefs where there is no consensus view among members, and the impact of taking belief into account is potentially financially detrimental.”

Case not setting a binding precedent

The tribunal ruling did not conclude whether the claimant had been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against because of his philosophical belief, and there will be a further hearing to decide that based on the facts of the case.

Ms Kola warned: “Employment tribunal decisions are not legally binding precedents, so there is no certainty that another case would be decided in the same way."

Nevertheless, Mr O’Brien noted “now may be the time to dust off equality and diversity policies”.

Stephanie Hawthorne is a freelance reporter for FTAdviser's sister publication Pensions Expert, where this article first appeared