Our position on Lendlease's development at Mt Gilead: update
In February we outlined our position which remains unchanged. We believe a responsible developer would not go ahead with a development that results in harm to a healthy colony of a vulnerable species. As one of the few remaining koala populations in the Sydney region, it’s critical these koalas are protected.
To our knowledge, we’re the only investor in Lendlease that is advocating and putting time, effort and money into being the voice of the koala. Our current focus is using that private and public voice as effectively as we can in the interests of this koala colony.
Ongoing private engagement
We have met with the Mt Gilead project team several times since February. Our Chief Investment Officer has met with Lendlease's CEO and our Head of Ethics Research and Ethical Stewardship Lead had a meeting with Lendlease’s Group Head of Sustainability and Head of Sustainability Australia. The purpose of these meetings has been to understand what protections Lendlease is putting in place for koalas including koala corridors, underpasses, and ongoing koala monitoring programs.
At the meeting with heads of sustainability at Lendlease, we also asked whether Lendlease conducts its own assessments of the public interests of developing a site, or whether it simply relies on government processes. We put it to Lendlease that they need to acknowledge the context they are operating in: where successive local, state and federal governments have failed to protect native habitat and to reverse the decline of koala populations, where the 2016 state of the environment report found that the outlook for Australian biodiversity is generally poor (we had this conversation with Lendlease before the most recent report was released), and where the latest review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Cth found multiple systemic regulatory failings. We put it to Lendlease that in that context, responsible developers need to conduct their own independent assessments of whether it is in the public interest to develop a site (including consideration of whether there are more appropriate uses such as revegetating native habitat).
Our questions to Lendlease are informed by briefings we have had from wildlife protection groups. Collaborating with these groups is an important part of our engagement strategy and helps ensure we are asking Lendlease the most pressing questions.
At Lendlease's half year 2022 results presentation we asked the following questions of Lendlease management:
Can Lendlease assure that koalas will have active and safe passage through the Mt Gilead site, and if it can't give that assurance, on what basis does it justify going ahead with the development?
Does Lendlease independently assess the public interest of a proposed development, for example, by conducting its own assessments of the risk to biodiversity. Or does Lendlease rely on government to make these assessments?
As one of the only investment funds that actively advocates for animals, we’re proud of our approach to animal protection. We are proud of what we have already achieved in our four years campaigning for better outcomes for this critically important koala colony.
To our knowledge, no other investor has campaigned harder on this privately or publicly than we have.
That of course counts for nothing if we are unable to protect this colony. That’s why we continue to keep all options on the table. That includes continuing, painstaking engagement with Lendlease and koala experts on the detail of the potential development and its staging. That also includes potential divestment.
Our decision to stay invested or to walk away from Lendlease has and will always be based on what is best for the koalas.