Skip to main content

Ethical influencing

We invest for a better future, and that means we use all the tools we have as an investor to influence change.

Sample image block

FY20 Summary

We invest for a better future, and that means we use all the tools we have as an investor to influence change. As well as shifting capital to positive businesses and away from the unsustainable, we use our ethical investment voice to influence companies and governments for the better. 

We exercise our influence in many ways. Private conversations allow us to communicate our concerns, and to build our understanding of a company’s positive and negative impacts as well as obstacles they may face to operating more sustainably. When progress behind closed doors is slow, other levers may be needed including shareholder resolutions, questions at company meetings, voting against election of directors or executive remuneration, speaking up in the media and, ultimately, divestment. 

We often engage and advocate independently, but we also look for opportunities to amplify our influence through collaborative influencing with like-minded investors and civil society groups. 

This table gives an overview of how we have used our investor position to advocate for a better world during Financial Year 2020 (July 2019 - June 2020). It includes our assessment of whether companies we engaged with made a positive change or commitment to change on the engagement issue during the year. We don’t claim credit for all this change, which will often be influenced by the good work of others or by a changing regulatory or economic environment. But we’re doing our bit.

For a climate fit for planet, people and animals  |  For the planet  |  For the people  |  For the animals

For a climate fit for planet, people and animals

Influence target

Issues

Background and actions

Outcome

Companies engaged and that changed*

Marsh & McLennan

Adani Carmichael coal mine

We engaged with Marsh because they provided broking services to Adani to help it obtain insurance for its Carmichael coal mine. We called on Marsh to provide a clear public commitment not to provide services that support projects like the Adani Carmichael coal mine in the future.

 

Marsh published a group policy saying it may refuse work which is not aligned with its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation.

However, the policy was vague and lacked meaningful information about how the company would assess alignment with the Paris Agreement. In June 2020 we divested from the company. More information about our divestment decision is available here.

1 company engaged independently 1 company changed (but not enough!)

           

 

Australian and global banks

Financing climate action and obstruction

We supported Market Forces climate resolutions calling on NAB and Westpac to disclose strategies and targets to reduce their exposure to fossil fuels in line with the Paris Agreement. We also supported an ACCR resolution calling on NAB to suspend membership of industry associations which obstruct Paris aligned climate policy.

We met with Westpac as part of their consultation with stakeholders about the updating of their Climate Position Statement and Action Plan. We discussed the changes we were anxious to see to secure alignment of their lending with the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. (At the Westpac AGM we also voted against their remuneration report. We believe company breaches – such as Westpac’s serious AUSTRAC breaches – need to be properly reflected in senior executive remuneration.) We provided Australian support for a global climate banking engagement undertaken by US investor Boston Common Asset Management. This project surveys and reports on climate action (and inaction) by 58 global banks, including the Australian big 4.

At the December AGMs of NAB and Westpac the resolutions received support ranging from 13% to 17% of shareholder votes. NAB announced new climate commitments ahead of its 2019 AGM, and Westpac released its new climate policy in May 2020. Both banks strengthened commitments to low emissions lending and restrictions on fossil fuel mining and energy generation, including target dates to exit all thermal coal funding. Concerns remain about their pace of action, their very broad criteria for their green lending targets and a lack of clarity about criteria for alignment of oil and gas lending with the banks' Paris Climate Agreement commitments.

37 of the banks engaged globally provided substantive updates on progress in climate action or disclosure, with over 80 positive steps since the previous global engagement. However, Boston Common concluded that “the explosion” of tools and initiatives in recent years has had little overall impact in reducing fossil fuel financing.

58 companies engaged collaboratively (and 3 of these independently)

37 companies made some changes

High emitters and energy users

Decarbonising the economy

Over the year we supported engagement with 92 large global energy users and greenhouse gas emitters including DuPont, Dow Chemicals, Roche, Verizon, Alcoa and Nippon Steel. This collaborative engagement was led by UK NGO ShareAction. We called on the companies to commit to climate action initiatives including:

RE100: Decarbonising energy through company commitments to shift to 100% energy use from renewables.

EP100: Reducing energy consumption with commitments to increase energy efficiency and productivity.

EV100: Supporting transport electrification with pledges to switch to electric vehicles and install charging infrastructure.

SBTi: Company-wide emissions reduction in line with science based targets consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Unibail-Rodamco and Kuehne & Nagel committed to set Science Based Targets, and other companies made commitments to increase renewable energy and electric vehicle use. Broader action is urgently needed as the window for responding to the climate emergency gets smaller. We continue to support initiatives that put pressure on big polluters and energy users to align their business to the Paris Agreement.

92 companies engaged collaboratively

5 companies made commitments

 

Santos and Origin Energy

Indigenous rights; coal health harm; transition to 100% renewables; climate policy lobbying

We don’t invest in fossil fuel companies Santos and Origin Energy, but we used nominal advocacy holdings of their shares to support shareholder resolutions at their annual general meetings (AGMs). The four Origin resolutions (arranged by ACCR) called for the company to review:

The process for informed consent from native title holders for Origin’s unconventional gas exploration in the Northern Territory.

  1. Implementation of pollution controls at its Eraring coal power station.
  2. Alignment of company expenditure and emissions reductions with the Paris Agreement, and remuneration incentives to achieve that alignment.
  3. Climate policy lobbying and the suspension of membership of industry associations which obstruct Paris aligned climate policy.

We also used our nominal advocacy holding in Santos to vote for the ACCR-led resolution calling on Santos to set short, medium and long term emission reduction targets that are aligned with the Paris agreement; to disclose how its exploration and capital expenditure is aligned with the Paris Goals; to disclose how its remuneration policy will incentivise progress against the emission reduction targets; and to ramp up its disclosures around climate-related lobbying.

While gas companies have increased climate-related disclosure and set some emissions reduction targets, real action to respond to climate change has been limited. They don’t accept responsibility for the all-important emissions from combustion of their gas (their ‘Scope 3 emissions’). They claim false certainty about the level of leaked methane emissions. They seek government funding for unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies in an attempt to reconcile gas industry growth with the emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 2 and 1.5 degrees. They push ahead with new unconventional gas projects.

In short, neither Santos nor Origin are aligning their businesses with the Paris Climate Agreement which requires gas use to decline over the coming decade. 

2 companies engaged collaboratively and independently 

0 companies made significant changes

Influential North American 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. 

These engagements are ongoing, with some shareholder resolutions filed receiving significant investor support, unfortunately in the face of strong resistance by some companies. Southern Company, one of the largest electricity producers in the U.S., pledged in May 2020 to set a goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Other company progress is expected to be announced by the investors leading specific engagements in coming months.

47 companies engaged collaboratively

1 company made some changes

QBE, Suncorp, IAG

Climate action

Insurers like QBE, Suncorp and IAG have the potential to facilitate fossil fuel expansion through their underwriting and investment. Together with Market Forces we co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on QBE to align its underwriting and investment activities with keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. Last year – after we co-filed a similar resolution against QBE – the global insurer announced a phase-out of its thermal coal exposure by 2030. This year the resolution called again for QBE to also restrict and phase out oil and gas exposure. At the AGM we asked the board about the introduction of specific climate criteria for new oil and gas projects.

We engaged with Suncorp and IAG about the alignment of their businesses with the Paris Agreement transition to a net zero emissions world. We supported shareholder resolutions arranged by Market Forces asking the insurers to set fossil fuel exposure reduction targets.

The three insurers have made progress in climate-related initiatives and transparency, including contribution to the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative and implementation of some fossil fuel investment and underwriting restrictions. Like many companies, this progress needs to accelerate including more clarity about action to safeguard alignment of the activities they support with the transition to net zero emissions by 2050. 

The QBE climate change resolution received 13% support at QBE’s AGM – double the support the similar resolution achieved last year. Questions about climate and the environment dominated the discussion at the QBE AGM.

3 companies engaged independently and collaboratively

 3 companies made some changes 

The world’s largest fast food companies

The environmental impacts of animal agriculture

As part of an ongoing engagement coordinated by the FAIRR Initiative and Ceres, we supported letters to food retailers and manufacturers calling on companies to report on their approach to transitioning protein sources to more sustainable plant-based options that support a dietary transition in line with a 1.5-degree world. Companies engaged included Coles, Woolworths, Unilever, Tesco, Nestle, Marks & Spencer, Conagra Brands, General Mills, Sainsbury's, Mondalez, Kraft Heinz, Walmart and Costco.

Growing global demand for animal protein continues to place unsustainable burdens on our planet’s limited resources. Animal agriculture is a significant driver of global greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity and deforestation / land clearing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified plant-based diets as a major opportunity for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Follow-up investor dialogues with the companies are ongoing. Looking at their policies, practices and reporting, FAIRR assessed that most companies made some improvement over the year

23 companies engaged collaboratively (including 2 independently)

19 companies made some changes

Big carbon emitters

Climate action

We continue to support the Climate Action 100+ engagements with some of the global companies most important to the transition to zero emissions. We contributed to dialogue with companies about action to deal with the challenges of methane leakage in gas production, the emissions intensity of cement production and the climate impacts of land clearing. 

We also supported CDP’s annual campaign to encourage high impact companies to report their climate, forestry and water footprint and management plans (but we do not include these companies in the numbers of companies engaged and changed).

While Origin and Santos extended their climate disclosure and announced new initiatives, we remain concerned that their strategies are grounded in future gas sector growth which is far from aligned with objectives to limit warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees. Boral faces significant challenges to align its cement and concrete businesses with the Paris Agreement, though they continue to work on lower emissions concretes and other building materials. Woolworths has made progress in reducing operational emissions, with a strategy focused on greater use of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency and behavioural change of staff. Initiatives included investment in onsite solar and electric vehicles.

5 companies engaged collaboratively and independently

2 companies made changes

Australian Government

Insufficient action on climate

At 10am on 20 September 2019, staff at Australian Ethical’s Sydney office downed tools to join the student strike in protest of the Australian government’s climate inaction. 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.

We continued to exercise our voice in the media for a broad based price on carbon emissions as the most effective market signal to drive innovation and investment to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions and fulfil the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

An estimated 300,000 people attended around 100 rallies across the country. Unfortunately, the federal climate policy response continues to disappoint.

The good news is governments in all the states and territories have made commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And since 1 October 2019 the ACT has effectively been powered by 100% renewable energy.

n/a

Our influencing actions and outcomes described in the ‘For the Climate’ and ‘For the Animals’ sections are also critical for preserving our precious environment and natural capital.

For the planet

Influence target

Issues

Background and actions

Outcome

Companies engaged and that changed*

Extractive sector companies and their financiers

Exploitation of formerly protected public lands

The Trump administration rolled back federal protections for over 150 million acres of public lands and waters, and weakened environmental laws that allow expanded industrial activity in areas that were previously protected. 

We supported a letter to extractive sector companies and their financiers urging them not to conduct or finance any new or expanded commercial activities on previously protected public lands.

 

The letter was supported by a group of institutional investors with a total of around $113 billion in assets under management and has resulted in conversations with major banks who share some of the concerns raised.

57 companies engaged collaboratively

Outcomes not yet assessed 

           

 

The world’s largest fast food companies

The environmental impacts of animal agriculture

As part of an ongoing engagement coordinated by the FAIRR Initiative and Ceres, we supported letters to food retailers and manufacturers calling on companies to do more to address the environmental harms in their meat and dairy supply chains. Companies engaged included, Chipotle, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands.

Animal agriculture is a significant driver of global greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity and deforestation / land clearing.

Follow-up investor dialogues with each of the companies will be scheduled later in the year.

6 companies engaged collaboratively

Outcomes not yet assessed

Companies exposed to deforestation in their operations and supply chains

Deforestation generally, and forest fires in the Amazon

The year 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.

 

Open letter, not included in our reporting of number of companies engaged and changed.

 

Federal Australian Government

Australia’s environmental and biodiversity protection laws

Traditional land owners

Australia’s federal environmental and biodiversity protection laws are currently under review. We contributed a submission to this review, pointing to evidence that our current environmental laws are failing our people, planet and wildlife. We also identified short-comings in the legislation including a lack of clear recognition of the national environmental significance of climate change and land clearing.

We also raised concerns that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not appropriately included in decision-making to the detriment of both those peoples and the environment. We asked our members / social media followers to get involved.

We asked them what they love about the Australian environment and what are their concerns for its future. We included some of their responses in an annexure to the submission.

 

Environmental organisations across Australia put in strong submissions to this review, explaining their perspectives on the shortcomings of the existing laws. We supported them by adding an investor or private sector voice that also called for greater environmental protection.

The review is being conducted by an Independent Panel which will report to the government in October 2020. The interim report was released on 20 June 2020 and in it the Independent Panel was unequivocal in its criticism of Australia’s environmental and biodiversity protection laws, stating it: “is ineffective. It does not enable the Commonwealth to play its role in protecting and conserving environmental matters that are important for the nation. It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges…” and that it “has failed to fulfil its objectives as they relate to Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians’ traditional knowledge and views are not fully valued in decision-making, and the Act does not meet the aspirations of Traditional Owners for managing their land.”

Unfortunately the government has already indicated it does not support all the suggested reforms. There are also concerns that the government might introduce ‘green tape cutting’ reforms to the legislation ahead of completion of the review. 

n/a

Our influencing actions and outcomes described in the ‘For the Climate’ and ‘For the Animals’ sections are also critical for preserving our precious environment and natural capital.

For the people

Influence target

Issues

Background and actions

Outcome

Companies engaged and that changed*

Major insurance companies: QBE, IAG, Suncorp and Allianz

Insurance Council of Australia

Traditional land owners

Biodiversity

World heritage sites

Responsible development 

We engaged with the insurance sector about the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall to reduce the frequency of flooding downstream. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) and some insurance companies have expressed support for the project.   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 will 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. We are concerned that the insurance sector’s support has been given without due consideration of the negative impacts; without assessment of whether there are lower impact alternatives; and without proper consultation with the Gundungarra people.

To help build our understanding of the issues we consulted extensively with the Colong Foundation which is opposing the dam wall raising.   We voted and spoke in favour of a shareholder resolution on the issue at the QBE AGM, and asked the Chair about the company’s role in influencing the position of its industry association, the ICA.

While insurers should contribute their risk management expertise to consideration of new development, they should not lobby or advocate for it unless negative impacts have been adequately investigated and balanced and alternatives considered. Responsible insurers should also use their influence to oppose inappropriate new property developments, particularly where insurance may become unaffordable in the future as the risk and intensity of floods and extreme weather increase with climate change.

Through the course of our engagements we saw at least two of the insurers undertake broader enquiries about the implications of the dam proposal and they confirmed that they were not advocating for the proposal to proceed.

 

4 companies engaged independently   

2 companies changed

           

 

Companies with low female representation in leadership roles

Gender diversity

As part of our ongoing engagement with companies on gender diversity, we had targeted engagements with a number of companies with low gender diversity in board and executive leadership. Although we have excluded some larger companies for lack of female representation on boards, we do not automatically exclude companies in these circumstances. We appreciate there can be several reasons for low diversity, some of which are in a company’s control, and some of which can be a reflection of structural or cultural barriers that are society-wide, and outside of the control of any one company. For example, women may be underrepresented across an industry sector (such as IT) which makes it more challenging for companies in the sector, particularly smaller companies, to attract and retain diverse talent. Accordingly, we look at the actions a company is taking to increase diversity. We will exclude any company, irrespective of size, if there is evidence of systemic discrimination.

Bigtincan demonstrated it is taking serious and credible action in relation to diversity, and we look forward to seeing the impacts of its various initiatives.

Urbanise committed to implement and report on several diversity initiatives.

As a more general marker of slow but steady progress, as of December 2019, women now make up 30% of the boards of Australia’s top 200 companies.

 

7 companies engaged independently

4 companies changed

           

 

Government

Pharmaceutical sector

Apparel sector 

Food sector

Responding to the health and economic implications of Covid-19

We supported a UN sustainability initiative that urged the federal government to enact tougher action on carbon emissions in its Covid-19 recovery plans. We added our voice in the media supporting the call to build back better, including supporting WWF’s renewable recovery work.

We supported a letter to pharmaceutical companies calling on them to focus on solutions to Covid-19 ahead of short-term financial considerations, including protecting employees, maintaining relationships with suppliers and collaborating with industry and government to develop responses to pandemics.

We supported engagement with apparel company Gildan, urging the company to support vulnerable workers in its supply chain and help them survive the economic disruption caused by Covid-19.

We supported a statement on living income and living wages that was sent to the CEOs and Chairs of more than 40 food and food retailing companies globally. 

The letter to pharmaceutical companies was signed by over 40 investors.

The investor statement sent to food sector companies in the food sector was signed by 35 institutional investors globally, with a combined AUM of more than 2.4 trillion USD.

66 companies engaged collaboratively

Outcomes not yet assessed

 

International Finance Corporation

Asian Development Bank

Inter-American Development Bank

Tighter asbestos prohibitions

In spite of the enormous risk to workers and communities, asbestos continues to be used in some parts of the world in building materials. Although international development banks have exclusions for investment in projects which use asbestos building materials, there are some exceptions for materials which can contain up to 20% asbestos in ‘bonded’ form. These materials still pose unacceptable risks to people involved in their manufacture or installation, and to the broader community when natural disasters, building demolition or other events damage these materials. We have been engaging with development banks to remove these exceptions to their asbestos exclusions, and to use their influence with other financiers to eliminate the use of asbestos all together.

The banks are reviewing their exclusions and we are monitoring the outcomes of those reviews.

After the end of the year, the Inter-American Development Bank introduced an asbestos exclusion which applies to building products with any level of bonded or unbonded asbestos.

 

3 companies engaged independently

0 companies changed during the year, 1 changed after

 

Companies with human rights impacts across the economy and society

Human rights risk management

When we review the social and environmental footprint of companies, we pay particular attention to products, services, operations and supply chains which have the potential to harm the human rights of workers, customers and communities. Companies engaged on their action to address human rights issues this year included Sigma, API, Graincorp, Investa, Costa Group, Hills Group and Beacon Lighting.

 

It is often difficult to assess progress in the practical action companies are taking to identify risks of human rights breaches and safeguard against their occurrence, particularly in complex supply chains. One company increased the frequency of workplace inspections.

 

17 companies engaged independently

1 company changed

Companies with low scores on human rights due diligence

Human rights and modern slavery

We supported letters to 95 companies that received the lowest score on human rights due diligence in the latest Corporate Human Rights Benchmark.

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark measures how companies, across various industries, perform across 100 indicators based on the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights.

The United Nations and Walk Free Foundation estimate that of the approximately 40 million victims of modern slavery around the world, 17 million are exploited in the private economy. Supply chain due diligence is a key part of eliminating human rights abuse, including modern slavery from the private sector.   

We engaged with companies in the building and technology sectors about management of human rights risk in their supply chain and from misuse of their products.

176 investors, representing $4.5 trillion in assets under management, supported the letter and called on the companies to take decisive action before June 2020, when the next Corporate Human Rights Benchmark assessment begins.

We expect the issues raised with Australian companies to be considered as they review their practices and disclosure ahead of their first reporting under the new Modern Slavery Act reporting requirements.

95 companies engaged collaboratively

Outcomes not yet assessed

Governments with no mandatory company human rights due diligence

Human rights and modern slavery

We supported the Investor Alliance for Human Rights statement calling on all governments to develop, implement and enforce mandatory human rights due diligence for companies headquartered or operating in their jurisdictions. 

In Australia, the Modern Slavery Act is now in force and companies will soon begin reporting on their efforts to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. The Modern Slavery Act is only a reporting obligation and does not require companies to take concrete steps to address modern slavery, such as conducting due diligence. However, we expect the mandatory reporting to encourage proactive human rights risk management as companies will be reluctant to admit to their customers, partners and investors that they are turning a blind eye.

n/a

Our influencing actions and outcomes described in the ‘For the Climate’, ‘For the Planet’ and ‘For the Animals’ sections are also critical for preserving and promoting human well-being.

For the animals

Influence target

Issues

Background and actions

Outcome

Companies engaged and that changed*

Lendlease

Koala habitat

Throughout the year we engaged with Lendlease about their proposed residential development at Mt Gilead, just south of Campbelltown in NSW. Our focus was potential effects on koalas in the area who are one of the last remaining healthy koala colonies in NSW. We considered carefully the concerns of NGOs opposing the development. We expect Lendlease to do more than comply with planning approvals. The company has a positive responsibility to take adequate steps to protect the koalas, including preserving habitat, ensuring effective travel corridors and fencing or other measures to protect koalas from dogs and traffic. The development should only proceed if it is clear that it does not threaten the viability of the koala populations in the area.

Lendlease responded to our detailed questions and we perceived a shift over the engagement towards greater ownership of responsibility to protect the local koala colony. In recent months the NSW Deputy Chief Scientist has released a report with recommendations for protection of the affected koalas, and the NSW government has announced a conservation plan to protect endangered koalas in the area including a new Georges River Koala Reserve. Lendlease has publicly confirmed its commitment to a number of koala protection measures and will gift land to the new reserve. We continue to monitor the progress of the proposed development.

 

1 company engaged independently 

1 company changed

Health care companies involved in animal research

Animal research for medical purposes

We engaged with healthcare companies about the action they are taking to ensure that they are using alternatives to animals in their research where possible as well as improving animal welfare standards in their research. Companies included Immutep, Mayne Pharma, Neuren Pharmaceuticals, Alterity Therapeutics, Opthea, Pharmaxis, Prescient, ResMed, Antisense, Actinogen, Avita, Cochlear, CSL, Fisher and Paykel, Clinuvel and Aroa Biosurgery.

We expect companies involved in animal research (directly or indirectly) to take credible action to avoid and limit animal suffering, including by demonstrating genuine commitment to the 3R principles (replacement of animals, reduction in the number of animals used and refinement of conditions and methodology to reduce suffering).

Four companies (Immutep, Antisense, Pharmaxis and Neuren Pharmaceuticals) confirmed positive changes including increased direct research into alternatives to the use of animals; raising animal welfare protections and requirements for external research organisations; support for increased government funding of alternatives to animal testing and better information for ethics committees; and making website and other public commitments to animal welfare.

16 companies engaged independently

4 companies changed

 

Marine Stewardship Council

Ghost gear

We called for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to strengthen the requirements in its fisheries standards in relation to ‘ghost gear’. Ghost gear is abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear that continues to ‘fish’ in the ocean. It is a significant contributor to a marine debris and a major threat to ocean life.

Many commercial seafood partners rely on MSC certification as a ‘one stop assurance’ program for their sustainable procurement policies. MSC announced in early 2019 that it would, as part of its scheduled fisheries standard review, consider whether to strengthen its requirements in relation to ghost gear. We were part of a group of investors that wrote to MSC to express support for this.

The MSC announced it is aiming to align its standard with the latest in best practice management to avoid gear loss and mitigate the impact of gear loss. Stakeholder and public consultation on these and other changes is underway.

 

n/a

 

NSW government

Animal protection

The NSW government is currently undertaking a review of NSW animal welfare laws. Our submission to the review drew attention to some of the ways in which our animal protection laws are failing animals, particularly animals used for commercial purposes.

There is an inherent conflict of interest between using animals for profit and ensuring animal welfare, which means that animals used by profit-making enterprises are particularly vulnerable and their interests are not necessarily going to be protected by the people whose care they are in. We therefore called for was the establishment of an independent office of animal welfare to ensure animal welfare standards and law enforcement is independent of the influence of industry. We also called for a recognition of animal sentience in the objects of welfare legislation (which NZ did in 2015, and the ACT did in 2019); for the laws to be updated to reflect current animal welfare science; and for enforcement bodies to be given the resources and powers to conduct regular unannounced inspections.

We participated in a FAIRR panel discussion about the links between Covid-19 and animal agriculture. We used this as an opportunity to draw attention to some of the animal welfare issues facing the sector in Australia, and made the case for why the investment community needs to look beyond legal compliance when assessing animal agricultural companies on animal welfare issues. The panel discussion is available here.

Submissions are currently being considered and the NSW government is developing reform proposals. Given the scope of the issues paper, we are concerned that the proposed reforms will not address the fundamental problems with animal welfare laws in NSW. We’ll continue to advocate on these issues to contribute to the coalition of voices working to generate momentum for substantive change.

n/a

Australian government

Animal activists

In response to the activities of animal activists, 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. 

n/a

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 government has indicated some support for improved standards for cages, including enrichments such as perches, nesting boxes, scratch areas or dust bathing areas.

Some improvements to greyhound racing regulation were introduced.

n/a

Our influencing actions and outcomes described in the ‘For the Climate’ and ‘For the Planet’ sections are also critical for animal protection and welfare, including engagements for greater use of protein from plants than animals in food products.

* The number of companies engaged and changed is an estimate of the number of companies contacted during the year as part of the engagement, and of the number of those companies which made a positive change or commitment to change on the issue during the year. We’re not claiming credit for all this change, but we’re doing our bit.