Super funds prefer to talk behind closed doors on climate

Most Australian superannuation funds are supporting more international climate related shareholder proposals than for Australian firms, according to Market Forces.  

A Market Forces report found 10 of the largest super funds supported just 38% of climate resolutions they voted on at Australian and international companies during 2019. 

Three of the 10 funds supported more than half of the resolutions, while four funds voted for a quarter or less.  

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While UniSuper voted ‘for’ 89% of climate action votes for international firms, it voted for 0% for domestic firms.  

In a statement, UniSuper told Super Review: “We will support shareholder resolutions where the companies that have not met, or committed to meet within a year, the substance of a sensible resolution. To date, we haven’t felt the need to use proxy voting for this purpose.  

“Internationally, we have supported many climate-related shareholder resolutions, as we don’t have the same level of access to the board and management.” 

Market Forces super campaigner, Will van de Pol, said that some of the funds had the same reasoning and preferred to engage in climate related issues behind closed doors with companies rather than via proxy voting due to their access to the board and management. 

“This mixed messaging is a major concern as while it’s great that investors are having conversations with companies about their climate risk management behind closed doors, they should be backing that up with clear public signals as to what they expect those companies to be doing,” he said to Super Review

“Voting on shareholder resolutions, calling for better climate action or climate risk management is that really public demonstration that we’d be looking to see.” 

On funds that said that companies had already taken some action and therefore they did not vote of climate-related resolution, van de Pol said this was an issue. 

“Generally, when we see that, the action the company committed to fell well short of the request that had been made through the shareholder resolution,” he said. 

“Often we see very minor movement towards the asks being made but certainly not to the level that should justify an investor not supporting a resolution that has much broader asks or is calling for greater action than has been taken already.” 

He noted that while there had been some improvement in voting for climate related resolutions in the last few years, some funds’ voting had dropped off in 2019, which he said was concerning. 

VicSuper, he said, had been a consistent voter in favour of climate change over the past few years, and NGS Super had voted for a number of Australian resolutions in 2019.  

While Local Government Super, HESTA, and VisionSuper had been quite supportive in the past, their voting had dropped in 2019.  

Super fund voting on climate-related shareholder resolutions in 2019 

Source: Market Forces 




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