UniSuper only paying lip-service to sustainable investment

Market Forces has launched a campaign to pressure UniSuper to divest its members’ savings from fossil fuel companies driving the climate crisis.

The organisation also launched a campaign website that published a letter from UniSuper members to the fund’s board of directors that demanded the fund divest from companies that were:

  • Expanding the scale of the fossil fuel sector; and/or
  • Relying on scenarios incompatible with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement to justify their future business prospects.

The letter said it expected the fund to divest by the end of the financial year on 30 June, 2020.

“As the default superannuation fund for Australia’s academics, scientists, researchers and university employees, UniSuper should be leading investor action on climate change,” it said.

“Instead, billions of dollars of members’ retirement savings are invested in companies whose operations and plans are completely incompatible with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.”

As of writing, 672 people had signed to be a signatory of the open letter.

Market Forces said UniSuper only disclosed its top 20 Australian and top 20 international share holdings.

“But even from this limited disclosure, we know at least 10% of the fund’s Australian share investments is in companies actively undermining the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, including Woodside, APA and BHP,” it said.

UniSuper had reported that 12% of its exposure was in companies involved in fossil fuels including investments in Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy.

While the fund said it engaged with investee companies to improve climate risk management, the fund had never voted in favour of a single climate change-related shareholder resolution in Australia, Market Forces said.

“This approach also fails to recognise the fact that no amount of engagement can bring a company relying on fossil fuel expansion into line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. The only option is to divest,” it said.

Market Forces’ asset management campaigner, Will van de Pol, said: “While Australia’s scientific and academic community work towards climate change solutions at this time of unprecedented bushfire crisis, their superfund is showing reckless disregard by investing their retirement savings in the companies causing the problem.

“Instead of paying lip-service, UniSuper can and must be at the vanguard of sustainable investment.” 

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I wonder how effective the engagement with Whitehaven Coal and Woodside Petroleum has been? I must have missed their rebranding as Whitehaven Solar and Woodside Wind. Green paint anyone?

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