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Advocacy Influencing December Quarter

Influence target

Broad theme(s)

Issues and action

Outcome / next steps

Australian government

Effective climate policy

 

Net zero by 2050

 

Carbon pricing

We’ve continued to call for Australian climate policy to catch up with the rest of the world. Our most important trading partners have already set net zero by 2050 targets – accounting for over 70% of our trade.

 

We strongly supported the private members Climate Change Bill introduced into parliament by Zali Steggal in November. We made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry considering the Bill, and spoke in support in the media.

The Climate Change Bill would provide a much needed national, long-term framework for climate change mitigation and adaption. A parliamentary inquiry is considering the Bill, which has already attracted broad support including from the Greens and Business Council of Australia. Hearings are scheduled for January.

Agriculture sector

Animal welfare

 

Sustainable agriculture

We organised and chaired a session on the investment case for managing animal welfare at the annual conference of the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA). The session called on investors to pay greater attention to animal welfare, including highlighting the investment risks and opportunities associated with rising consumer expectations for animal care; improved regulatory standards and enforcement; and changes in diet and other consumption choices.

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.

High emissions companies and sectors

Science-Based Emissions Reduction Targets

 

Renewable Energy Targets

 

Electric Vehicle Targets

We supported the Investor Decarbonisation Initiative work of NGO ShareAction, calling on major companies globally to set targets for:

Science-based emissions reductions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement

Transition to 100% use of renewable energy and electric vehicles in company operations.

We also supported Climate Action 100+ engagements, with issues this quarter including the path to net zero for cement and other building materials.

2020 successes for the ShareAction initiative included science-based target commitments from supermarket Sainsburys, global real estate company Unibail-Rodamco and Deutsche Railways; electric vehicle commitments from Tescos and Dixons Carphone; and a 100% renewable energy pledge from pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Major insurance companies: IAG, Suncorp and Allianz

 

Insurance Council of Australia

Traditional land owners

Biodiversity

World heritage sites

Responsible development

We have previously reported our engagement with the insurance sector about the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall to reduce the frequency of flooding downstream. The proposal would mean that large parts of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area – habitat to endangered species – will be inundated during high rainfall events, as well as sites sacred to the Gundungarra people, who already lost so many of their sacred sites when the dam was first built. Raising the dam wall may also encourage more development on flood-prone areas, which may put more people and property at risk and make it more difficult for existing residents to evacuate during a flood.

In October IAG ceased its support for the proposal, and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) undertook to consult on the proposal’s impact on Indigenous heritage sites.

The Colong Foundation for Wilderness continues expertly and tirelessly to prosecute its ‘Give a Dam’ campaign to draw attention to the shortcomings of the proposal.

 

 

Companies with low female representation in leadership roles

Gender diversity

As a signatory to the Australian 30% Club, this quarter we closed out our 2020 gender diversity advocacy.

In our engagements we encouraged companies to investigate and seek to address reasons for lack of gender diversity, as well as potential unconscious biases that could be entrenching the status quo. We also encouraged companies to create inclusive workplaces which develop and get the best out of all their people.

We also emphasised the importance of male employees having equal access and use of parental leave entitlements and flexible working arrangements so that they could balance their domestic responsibilities. Helping men take parental leave or work flexibly not only supports talent attraction and retention, but can also help their partners re-enter the workforce.

While we have excluded some larger companies for lack of female representation in leadership roles, we do not automatically exclude companies with poor representation. We understand there are a number of reasons that can lead to low diversity, so we instead consider the actions a company is taking to increase diversity. We exclude any company, irrespective of size, if there is evidence of systemic discrimination.

In addition to its commitment in the last quarter to provide greater flexible work options for both women and men to balance their work, life and family responsibilities, Azure confirmed it was also looking to expand its diversity-related Corporate Governance disclosures and disclose the breakdown of gender in senior executive positions.

Vocus confirmed it expects to publish gender diversity targets and progress in the diversity section of its Corporate Governance reports for FY21 onwards, and are looking to provide more details on the outcomes and any corrective measures of its annual wage gap analysis also in its FY21 Corporate Governance report.

IDP stated it will consider how to effectively report on pay equity audit outcomes in the future, its work with WGEA to become a pay Equity Ambassador, and the adoption of new processes to ensure gender diversity in shortlisting of applicants for all senior roles.

BigTinCan demonstrated its commitment to diversity through a number of expanded diversity measures and initiatives currently being implemented and put in place.

We are satisfied the companies with which we engaged are taking appropriate measures to progress diversity in their workforce.

Companies in the Asia Pacific region exposed to risks of modern slavery 

Modern slavery, human trafficking and labour exploitation

Australian Ethical was one of 24 investors (with a collective total AU$5.8 trillion in assets under management) that signed onto the Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking Asia Pacific (IAST APAC) investor statement. On the 12th November 2020 IAST APAC sent the investor statement to 100 ASX-listed companies to set out expectations ahead of their reporting obligations under the Australian Modern Slavery Reporting Act (2018). We encouraged companies to go beyond minimum reporting obligations and explore best practice risk management of these issues, starting with a risk-based mapping exercise of the supply chain and suggesting a number of potential actions from there. IAST APAC is currently setting up a framework for continued engagement with key companies to identify and mitigate slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.

https://iast.fastinitiative.org/

As of the 1st December 2020, 31 companies had responded to the investor letter. Responses were positive and welcoming of the initiative. Some responses from companies included details of existing and future activities, while the majority of responses noted details would be included in upcoming Modern Slavery Act statements to be released by March 2021.

 

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