ESG Knowledge in Danish Pension Funds: Investigating ESG with Social Epistemology

Christina Marie Leonhart & Felix Bärmann

Student thesis: Master thesis


Pension funds have increasingly turned to ESG factors in their investment decision-making. While on the one hand experiencing a promulgation of guidelines, taxonomies, and standards surrounding ESG factors, pension funds are on the other hand faced with the irreconcilability of ESG data. In the light of these problems, this thesis assesses how Danish pension funds contribute to the creation, dissemination and legitimization of ESG knowledge and how these ESG knowledge practices can be critically assessed from the theoretical lens of social epistemology. In doing so, it draws on eight semi-structured interviews with Danish ESG experts and a document analysis of academic as well as non-academic sources on sustainable finance. The thesis claims that the legitimization of ESG knowledge is informed, upheld and reinforced by a collective belief in its usefulness. Further, a Foucauldian perspective expands on this collective belief by identifying ESG knowledge as a site of power-knowledge struggles. Lastly, Miranda Fricker’s concept of epistemic injustice problematizes the complex jargon and consequent high epistemic standards of ESG knowledge. Ultimately, the findings suggest a higher degree of engagement with the critical public in the creation of ESG knowledge.

EducationsMsc in Business Administration and Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages126
SupervisorsSteen Vallentin