Influence target Broad theme(s) Issues and action Outcome / next steps
Australian government Insufficient action on climate

At 10am on 20 September, staff at Australian Ethical’s Sydney office downed tools to join the student strike in protest of the Australian government’s inadequate response to the climate emergency. The students demanded three things from the federal government:

  • An end to all new coal, oil and gas projects
  • 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030
  • Funding for a fair transition into new jobs for fossil fuel workers and communities.
We supported these demands and joined the Not Business as Usual campaign. We also encouraged other businesses to join the strike by writing letters to the CEOs of key business partners and engaging with select investee companies on social media. 

An estimated 300,000 people attended around 100 rallies across the country. Unfortunately, the response from our Prime Minister has been disappointing.

The good news is governments in all the states and territories have made commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. In addition, since 1 October 2019 the ACT has effectively been powered by 100% renewable energy.      
International companies Anti-climate corporate lobbying

Through a Climate Action 100+ initiative, organised by Ceres, we supported engagements with 47 North American companies, asking them to take steps to ensure that their corporate lobbying (both direct and through third parties such as trade associations) is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change risks and limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue a 1.5 limit.

Specific requirements include that companies (1) lobby in line with the Paris Agreement, (2) establish governance procedures to ensure that all direct and indirect public policy engagement supports appropriate policy measures to mitigate climate risks, (3) respond when trade associations engage in public policy in a way that is not aligned with the Paris Agreement, and (4) be transparent about the company’s position on climate change and any lobbying it is involved in, directly or through third parties.     
Laggard companies will be identified based on company responses, investor feedback and research. Specific escalation strategies will be determined on a case by case basis. 
Companies exposed to deforestation in their operations and supply chains Deforestation generally, and forest fires in the Amazon

It is with dismay we saw an escalating crisis of deforestation and forest fires in Brazil and Bolivia. Tropical forests play a crucial role in tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem survival.

Several hundred companies have committed to end commodity-driven deforestation by 2020. However research suggests few companies are on track to reach this goal. We signed a global investor statement calling on companies to redouble their efforts and demonstrate clear commitment to eliminating deforestation within their operations and supply chains, including by: (1) setting time bound targets covering the entire supply chain, (2) assessing operations and supply chains for deforestation risk, (3) establishing transparent monitoring system to assess compliance and (4) report annually on progress.
The statement was signed by 230 investors with USD $16.2 trillion in assets under management. The statement puts pressure on companies exposed to deforestation. But more needs to be done to ensure companies stick to their deforestation commitments and meet their targets.
Suncorp, IAG,  Origin Climate action The fossil fuel sector continues to expand at a time that urgent contraction is needed. Origin is exploring new unconventional gas resources in the Northern Territory, and insurers like Suncorp and IAG have the potential to facilitate fossil fuel expansion through their underwriting and investment. We engaged with Suncorp, IAG and Origin about the alignment of their businesses with the Paris Agreement transition to a net zero emissions world. We are supporting the shareholder resolutions arranged by (1) Market Forces asking the insurers to set fossil fuel exposure reduction targets; (2) ACCR asking Origin to review (a) whether informed consent has been given by Aboriginal native title holders to fracking in the Northern Territory and (b) pollution controls at their Eraring power station. We exclude investment in Origin under our Ethical Charter but support the resolutions using a nominal advocacy holding. The company engagement, shareholder resolutions and related publicity has helped keep the urgent need for climate action in corporate strategy development and on media front pages. The Suncorp climate resolution received 9% shareholder support, and the Origin and IAG annual general meetings will be held in October.
Australian government Animal activists In response to the activities of animal activists earlier in the year, the government introduced two new criminal offences targeting activists who trespass on private land, or rescue (or steal, depending on your perspective) farm animals. We made a submission arguing that targeting activists is not good policy. The government’s own-commissioned research shows the public is increasingly distrustful of the animal agriculture industry and of government when it comes to protecting animal welfare, and we think there are good reasons for that including: (1) inappropriate industry influence in the process for setting animal welfare standards; (2) poor enforcement of animal welfare standards and repeat instances of animal activists and whistle-blowers identifying animal cruelty which would not otherwise have been identified; (3) poor labelling of animal welfare practices that misleads consumers; and (4) poor environmental practices by industry. In acting against animal activists without also acting to address the cause of their concerns, the government seems to be trying to sweep the problem under the carpet. Unfortunately, the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill was passed on 12 September 2019. We are seeing governments across Australia cracking down on activists who are trying to attract national attention to important issues including the climate emergency, the extinction crisis and institutional animal suffering. Almost all social justice movements involve protests and civil disobedience that cause some level of disruption. We think these types of non-violent protests are a sign of a healthy democracy, and responsible government should be responding to the concerns raised rather than targeting the messengers.   
NSW government Animal protection

We responded to the NSW public consultation on the use of battery cages, arguing that battery cages should be phased out in line with community expectations and animal welfare science. We asked our followers on social media what they thought about battery cages and included their comments in our submission.
We also responded to the NSW Government’s public consultation on the regulation of greyhound racing. We argued greyhound racing is incompatible with animal welfare and we do not support its continuation, but if it is to continue (and continue to be in part supported by tax payer funding) it is the responsibility of government to ensure the industry has the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability. Drawing on the governance, transparency and accountability issues identified in the Banking Royal Commission and the Aged Care Royal Commission, we identified strengths and weaknesses in the proposed changes to the regulatory framework.

We don’t invest in the egg or in the greyhound racing industry.

The Legislative Council Select Committee on the Use of Battery Cages for Hens received over 500 submissions. It has not yet published its recommendations.

Improvements to greyhound racing regulation were passed and are now in force.