Here's how we stand up for what we believe in
If we’re considering investing in a new company but would like them to make ethical changes before we invest, we discuss our concerns with them. If we do not reach an agreement, it is highly unlikely that we will invest.
We acquire nominal advocacy holdings (a few hundred dollars) of shares in excluded companies when we see an opportunity to push them to restrict their unsustainable activities. These are held for our Advocacy Fund and allow us to have a voice as legitimate shareholders of those companies and to support shareholder resolutions that align with our values.
We engage with companies we invest in when we’re concerned about something they’re doing. This often leads to positive change:
- In 2019 we co-filed a shareholder resolution arranged by Market Forces that called on insurer QBE to disclose its targets to reduce investment and underwriting exposure to coal, oil and gas in line with restricting global warming to 1.5°C. Although QBE responded positively with a commitment to phase out insurance for thermal coal, it continued to signal support for oil and gas. So we attended the QBE annual general meeting in May 2019 to encourage QBE directors to adopt restrictions on oil and gas as well as coal. Under sustained questioning at the meeting from Australian Ethical and others, the company said its climate restrictions will continue to evolve. The QBE chairman said “we hear and listen to folks like yourself”.
- Westpac ruling out lending to new thermal coal basins (ie, Adani Carmichael) in 2017. NAB ruling out any new lending to thermal coal. We engage with both companies on climate, including asking Westpac to rule out Adani lending at its 2016 AGM.
- Two insurers we engaged with in 2018 about live export agreed to stop insuring live exporters.
Unsatisfactory outcomes from our engagement can often lead to us divesting from certain companies. Companies we have divested from include: some financial services companies off the back of the Banking Royal Commission (AMP and IOOF), as well as some international companies including AmerisourceBergen due to concerns with how they have responded to widespread prescription drug abuse in the USA, and Essity because of involvement in animal testing for consumer products.
We engage with policymakers and policy influencers and often make submissions to Government on issues of concern, including exposing Modern Slavery and stopping live animal export.
We run and support campaigns for change alongside our members and other liked-minded groups. For example, we use social media to engage with a wide audience on ethical issues such as animal cruelty on Melbourne Cup Day and supporting Kids off Nauru as a human rights stance.