US - The California Public Employees' Retirement System's (CalPERS) real estate partners have helped make significant progress towards the pension fund's environmental goals.

Officials say the CalPERS Energy Efficiency Plan showed real estate partners reduced their electricity and gas use by 13.3% in 2007 by introducing recycling programmes, installing low-flow or sensor-operated fixtures and taking and treating storm water runoff.

George Diehr, chair of the investment committee for CalPERS, said: "This assessment shows initial signs of real progress. Conserving and advancing sustainable environmental practices help our effort to enhance the long-term value of our portfolio."

CalPERS' environmental plan was set up in 2005 and is designed to reduce energy use by 20% by 2009, while also achieving risk-adjusted returns.

The Hines Green Development fund, which was created in 2006 with a $225m (€176m) commitment from CalPERS, currently has approximately $725m in gross assets for development projects involving high performance sustainable office buildings.

CalPERS then approved a policy on 18 August 2008 encouraging "the prudent use of sustainable development methods and operational practices" for investments in new infrastructure projects like transportation, ports, energy, water, and communications, as part of its global advocacy fro improved environmental disclosure and transparency by public stock companies. 

"Consistent with our fiduciary duty, we're an active steward of the Principles for Responsible Investment on environmental, social and governance issues in emerging as well as developed markets," said Anne Stausboll, interim chief investment officer for CalPERS.

"We also advocate reporting of carbon emissions and other environmental threats to federal regulators and policymakers, participate with the Investor Network on Climate Risk and the Carbon Disclosure Project, and raise environmental concerns in proxy voting," she added.

CalPERS had $1.1bn in the private equity clean energy and technology sector on 30 June 2008, including $200m allocated in 2004 to the Environmental Technology Program, $400m allocated in 2006 to the Program's second phase and £500m in exposure though funds of core general companies.

The Environmental Technology Program invests in projects across the US and Europe and has reduced fossil-based electricity use by the amount consumed by 100,000 US households a year, while private equity consultants reported in 2007,11 partners investing in 79 portfolio companies reduced greenhouse gases by the amount produced by 39,000 Americans.

CalPERS has over $175bn in market assets, making it the largest pension fund in the US. It provides retirement and health benefits for more 1.6m public employees and retirees.