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New data reveals extent of South African investors’ fossil fuel holdings

20 April 2023 at 12:22 pm

South African institutional investors’ holdings in coal, oil and gas companies in South Africa amount to USD 17.1 billion, ranking South Africa 19 out of 74 countries globally for the amount of money invested in fossil fuel companies.

This is one of the findings of a new global research report on the companies investing in upstream oil, gas and coal companies published by Urgewald, Reclaim Finance, and 23 other NGO partners from around the world.

According to the research report, investors globally invested over USD 3 trillion into coal, oil and gas companies as at January 2023. The data reveals investors who hold shares and bonds in coal companies listed on Urgewald’s Global Coal Exit List (GCEL) and in upstream oil and gas companies listed on its Global Oil & Gas Exit List (GOGEL).

The top three institutional investors in fossil fuel companies in South Africa have combined share and bond holdings of USD 13.5 billion in coal, oil and gas companies.

  1. South Africa’s biggest institutional investor is the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) which holds a whopping USD 7.4 billion invested in coal, oil and gas companies.
  2. The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is an asset manager who invests funds on behalf of mostly public sector entities, including the GEPF, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), Compensation Commissioner Fund, Compensation Commissioner Pension Fund and Associated Institutions Pension Fund. The PIC ranks as South Africa’s second biggest fossil fuel investor, with USD 3.4 billion invested in fossil fuel companies.  This, despite the PIC being a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact and the Principles for Responsible Investment.
  3. At number three is Ninety One, investing over USD 2.7 billion into coal, oil and gas companies. Investec doesn’t follow too far behind, ranking at number five, investing over USD 629 million into oil and gas projects. Coronation Fund Managers slips in just before Investec at number four, investing almost USD 782 million.
Investor Amount held in bonds (millions) Amount held in shares (millions) Total invested (millions)
Government Employees Pension Fund US$ 6 801,2 US$ 626,8 US$ 7 428,0
Public Investment Corporation US$ 3 386,1 US$ 3 386,1
Ninety One US$ 193,1 US$ 2 475,2 US$ 2 668,4

“The GEPF[1] and the PIC are risking the pensions of ordinary government employees, by continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies,” says Bobby Peek, Executive Director of groundwork, one of the co-publishers of the report. “One wonders if a young teacher at a public school in South Africa is aware of the immense risk involved in these investments in fossil fuel companies? These fossil fuel companies face the risk of stranded fossil fuel assets, while contributing to the climate crisis and undermining global efforts to avert climate disaster,” says Peek.

“With this level of investment in fossil fuels, the GEPF is adding to climate risk for present and future generations,” says Leanne Govindsamy, Head of Corporate Accountability and Transparency programme at the Centre for Environmental Rights. “At a time when we need to halve emissions by 2030, to avert climate disaster, this report illustrates the role which investors play in continuing to support the fossil fuel industry. They should be demanding a great deal more from fossil fuel companies, given that continued exposure to fossil fuels constitutes financial, environmental and climate risk.”

Who are the top six fossil fuel companies being invested in in South Africa?

With over USD 8.8 billion invested in it as at January 2023, Sasol is the company in which most investments are held. Its biggest investor is the Public Investment Corporation.  Next up is Eskom, with investment of over USD 8 billion. In third place, is Exxaro Resources Ltd, with just under USD 2.3 billion invested into it. Exxaro is followed by Transnet with investments of USD 1.2 billion, and then by Thungela Resources Ltd (USD 895 million), and Grindrod Ltd (USD 170 million).

Investor Amount held in bonds (in millions) Amount held in shares (in millions) Total invested (in millions)
1.       Sasol US$ 1 486,6 US$ 7 323,5 US$ 8 810,1
2.       Eskom US$ 8 008,3 US$ 8 008,3
3.       Exxaro Resources US$ 2,7 US$ 2 324,9 US$ 2 327,6
4.       Transnet US$ 1 192,4 US$1 192,4
5.       Thungela Resources US$ 894,6 US$ 894,6
6.       Grindrod US$ 169,5 US$ 169,5

Makoma Lekalala from Earthlife Africa says that, “it is scientifically well established that Southern Africa is warming at twice the global average. South Africa is already a water scarce country and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that climate change-induced drought is one of our major risks. We are facing an unprecedented human rights and humanitarian crises and investors continue to do business as usual. This must change and investors could be at the forefront of this change, instead of standing still while the climate crisis unfolds.”

“The GEPF and the PIC are not only the most powerful institutional investors in South Africa, they also invest for the long term, and have a clear legal obligation to factor climate risk into their investment decisions. Unfortunately, there is no information to demonstrate that they are using that power or complying with their legal obligations. As managers of the pensions of teachers, nurses, and hundreds of thousands of other ordinary South Africans, the GEPF and the PIC should be using their immense power to drive climate action, not risking the future prosperity of the people who own the assets they are investing. Not only do these investments contribute to the climate crisis and therefore to an unstable and dangerous future, but they are also at risk of becoming stranded assets, creating serious financial losses for pension members. The PIC and GEPF should either publicly divest from these holdings, or they should act as responsible investors to drive a rapid transition away from fossil fuels” Tracey Davies, Director at JustShare.

“Investors supporting the oil and gas industry by buying shares and bonds lead to an unacceptable result: millions of dollars continue to be pumped into an industry that must urgently be phased out if we are to avoid global catastrophe,” says Katrin Ganswindt from Urgewald, and one of the authors of the report. “These investors have a crucial role to play in the just transition and investing in the future of the planet, and must be held to account by civil society, regulators, customers and activist shareholders.”


For information on the companies and investors covered by the research as well as a detailed methodology, visit:


For further information, contact:

Lerato Balendran            Life After Coal   +27 (0)79 071 7442              [email protected]

Katrin Ganswindt            Urgewald           + 49(0)30863292261               [email protected]


[1] The GEPF’s motto is ‘tomorrow shouldn’t be a worry if today is done right”.