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Advocacy Influencing March Quarter

Influence target
Broad theme(s)
Issues and action
Outcome / next steps
QBE

Alignment with net zero by 2050

Together with Market Forces we co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on QBE to align its underwriting and investment of oil and gas assets with keeping the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

This is the third year we have co-filed climate resolutions against QBE. While QBE has announced a phase-out of its thermal coal exposure and taken climate action in other areas, its most recent announcements indicate a business and usual approach to underwriting new oil and gas projects until 2030 and beyond. This is a major gap: When considering whether to underwrite new long term high emissions projects, responsible insurers should be asking now whether those projects are consistent with the Paris climate goals. 

The shareholder resolution will be voted on at QBE’s annual general meeting on 5 May 2020. We are talking to other investors about supporting the resolution.

High emissions companies and sectors

Emissions reduction targets and other climate action

This quarter Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) published their benchmarking report on the climate performance of over 100 of the world’s largest emitters. Too many organisations are not scoring well on the CA100+ benchmark. While many companies set aspirational targets for net-zero emissions by 2050, there are far fewer interim 2025 and 2030 targets that cover all material company emissions.

We spoke in the media to help publicise the report findings, and call for more urgent action by these systemically important companies.

We will continue to engage for companies to set science-based targets which include ‘scope 3 emissions’ produced both upstream in company supply chains and downstream when company products are used.

We will also scrutinise the alignment of company capital expenditure with credible pathways to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Unfortunately the CA100+ research showed many Australian companies are failing this test, particularly in the area of oil and gas capex.

Lendlease

Koala habitat

We continued to engage with Lendlease about their proposed residential development at Mt Gilead, just south of Campbelltown in NSW. The development has the potential to impact one of the last remaining healthy koala colonies in NSW.

We also spoke to other key stakeholders and experts, including WWF, and visited the development site with the company and others.

We have told LendLease that any failure by the company to meet their koala protection commitments including harm to the viability of the colony will be viewed as 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.

More information is available here.

Australian and international companies

Human rights and modern slavery

Labour rights

We lodged our first Modern Slavery Statement, outlining how we address human rights issues in our investing, procurement, grants program and other   aspects of our operations. We also:

  • Continued our participation in the work of the Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking Asia Pacific which is engaging with key companies to identify and mitigate slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.
  • Co-signed an Investor Letter to Amazon to ask for concrete measures to implement its stated commitment to International Labour Organisation Core Conventions.

Supported a collaborative ‘Votes Against Slavery’ engagement with 61 UK listed companies which have failed to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act.

Unfortunately modern slavery and other human rights abuses can be complicated to identify and remedy when companies look across all their local and international operations and supply chains. Modern slavery reporting legislation is providing a much-needed catalyst for greater attention to this key ethical issue.

Governments globally

Fair access to vaccines and medicine

We supported an investor call for fair global access to vaccines and other health technologies and equipment to fight the COVID-19 virus. As well as calling for improved government funding, investors committed to engage with companies to accelerate research, production and equitable pricing and distribution of vital healthcare. We promoted the statement along with the general principle of fair access to healthcare here.

Fair access to vaccines and other healthcare remains an urgent issue. We’ll continue to support the important work of the Access to Medicine Foundation which has been working on equitable healthcare since 2003.

Companies working on vital medical research also have a responsibility to take care to ensure their research, production, marketing and distribution are conducted ethically.

Australian government

Voice of First Nations Peoples to Parliament

We lodged a submission to the Indigenous Voice co-design process: https://voice.niaa.gov.au

We believe a constitutionally enshrined voice to inform Australia’s parliament on issues that directly affect First Nation’s Peoples is vitally important as part of the steps needed to achieve practical, meaningful and long-lasting reconciliation and remediation, as well as promoting the future flourishing of First Nations Peoples and all Australians.

Following the consultation process, final Voice proposals will be presented to Government to give Indigenous Australians in communities around the country a direct say on matters to improve their lives.

Nine Entertainment

Diversity and inclusion

We engaged with Nine about increasing diversity in their news and entertainment content.

While ethnically and otherwise diverse individuals are currently underrepresented, the company is taking steps to encourage diversity and different perspectives.

Optus

Misleading and mistreating customers

We engaged about the level of regulatory penalties imposed by the ACCC on Optus for breaches including misleading consumers and overcharging.

We gained an appreciation of some of the challenges faced by the company not always within its control, including as a result of NBN switching. Optus explained how their remediation work was addressing both specific compliance issues and broader training, risk and assurance systems and processes. 

Cleanaway

Corporate culture

We engaged with Cleanaway about its desired and current workplace culture and values, against the backdrop of complaints against the CEO as well as environmental and health and safety investigations.

The company confirmed its commitment to addressing areas for improvement, with FY21 focus areas including diversity and inclusion, health and safety and employee mental health. The board has made a number of changes and is monitoring culture through a range of metrics, some of which are now being incorporated into staff incentives.

Agriculture sector

Animal welfare

Sustainable agriculture

We supported FAIRR engagements for:

  • Sustainable proteins promoting greater use of plant based protein
  • Sustainable feed supplies for aquaculture, reducing dependency on feed sources such as soy and fishmeal and fish oil
  • Improved working conditions and practices in animal-based agriculture.

We continue to support the strong engagement work of Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) and Farm Animal Investment Risk Return (FAIRR) which are promoting greater company and investor attention to animal welfare in Australia and globally. While distinct from growing interest in climate action, we see the lower emissions and greater resource efficiency of plant nutrition as an important co-driver of increased attention to animal welfare issues.

Ethical influencing

We exercise our influence in many ways.

See how we have used our investor position to advocate for a better world during Financial Year 2020.

See impact