CalPERS recruits impact investor for sustainable investing head

Peter Cashion will lead CalPERS’ stewardship and net zero implementation and ‘develop new investment strategies’.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has appointed Peter Cashion as managing investment director for sustainable investments. Cashion will join CalPERS from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, where he has spent 27 years, most recently as global head of climate finance and chief investment officer in the IFC’s financial institutions group.

CalPERS’ sustainable investing program involves ESG-related risk management for all asset classes, integrating ESG factors into investment strategies and “uncover[ing] opportunities through the sustainable investment lens,” according to a statement from CalPERS.

“Cashion’s role will be to set the vision, strategy, and governance for CalPERS’ sustainability work and be responsible for leading all aspects of the fund’s efforts to develop and implement an economics-based ESG research and data framework to support environmental, social, and governance integration into the investment decision-making process,” the statement said.

In the statement, Cashion said of his new role, “I look forward to working with the team to position the portfolio for the transition to a low carbon economy, develop new investment strategies to tap into this opportunity, and advance on the Net Zero implementation plan – all as an integral part of meeting the fiduciary duty to plan beneficiaries.”

Cashion did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

The program was previously led by Anne Simpson, who left her position as managing investment director for board governance and sustainability in January 2022 to become Franklin Templeton’s global head of sustainability. James Andrus has been serving as interim managing investment director for board governance and sustainability since Simpson’s departure.

CalPERS is the largest public pension in the US, with about $453 billion in assets under management. Its private equity portfolio was valued at $48.8 billion as of as of September 2022.

Under the watch of new CIO Nicole Musicco, CalPERS is overhauling its private equity program after a “lost decade” under-investing in the asset class caused the system to miss out on between $11 billion and $18 billion in returns, Musicco said in September.

The giant pension has also become an active investor in venture capital funds over the past couple of years. Across both its Venture Capital team and its Growth Equity team, CalPERS has made 18 commitments totaling $2.3 billion to 10 different VC and growth managers, Venture Capital Journal previously reported. The 10 managers include Base 10 Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia, among others.

Additional reporting by Venture Capital Journal staff