Our position on Lendlease development:
Figtree Hill and and Mt Gilead
Lendlease is attracting heavy scrutiny for the development of the Figtree Hill estate near Campbelltown, NSW with concerns about potential harm to local koalas. Here's an update on our position and the action we're taking.
15 January 2021
Lendlease is attracting heavy scrutiny as it commences work on the development of the Figtree Hill estate near Campbelltown, NSW, and progresses plans for an adjacent site. The proposed residential housing estates are on rural land used for crop growing, cattle grazing and horse agistment. There are widespread concerns about potential harm to local koalas. These concerns are being raised by local communities and animal protection groups – and by responsible investors like Australian Ethical.
Here’s an update on our thinking and action on the issues.
We don’t support the development
We don’t support the development because of the importance of koala protection. The development will introduce new threats to the local colony. We acknowledge there will be some areas where koala habitat, protection and corridors are expected to be improved by the koala protection commitments made by Lendlease, compared to threats from the current agricultural clearing and use. But the protective measures can be strengthened. There are also alternative land uses which would offer greater protection than either the existing agricultural use or the proposed residential use. These options should be more fully explored by the company and governments.
Our engagement and advocacy for better protection
We have engaged with Lendlease on the development and koala protection since the end of 2018. To support the engagement we drew on the expertise and hard work of environmental and koala protection groups working on the issue. We have seen some strengthening of koala protection measures by the company, and we will continue to support calls for additional measures to help better align these protections with the expert recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist and others. We will also encourage the company to more generally reconsider options for uses of the site which will better promote the health of the local koala population.
Our current investment in Lendlease
For the reasons stated, we don’t and would not invest directly in the Figtree Hill or Mt Gilead projects. However, taking account of all its activities, we do currently invest in Lendlease. Like all large companies we invest in, we don’t agree with all Lendlease decisions. But we assess the overall business of Lendlease as positive for its development of sustainable buildings and important public infrastructure including schools and hospitals.
Although we don’t support the Figtree Hill and Mt Gilead development, we have taken into account that much of the affected land has already been cleared and used for agricultural purposes. We have assessed that the company is taking steps to align the development with the recommendations of the Chief Scientist for protection of koalas, and to include some protection measures that will increase existing habitat and koala protection. For example, the underpasses which will be built under Appin Road combined with habitat rehabilitation, corridors and fencing will create a new east west corridor between the Georges and Nepean rivers.
Any failure by the company to meet their protection commitments including harm to the viability of the colony will be viewed seriously. Lendlease is on notice that this would be a trigger for divestment from the company. We continue to engage with the company and others both about appropriate action to protect against the impact of development as well as alternatives to development.
Why not divest now?
We exclude over 60% of the ASX top 200 companies, though like Lendlease the remaining companies are still not perfect. When considering investment we take into account the overall impact of a company, and the influence we can have by actively engaging with them for positive change.
You can read more about our approach, including our successes as well as divestments here.