Many investors are employed as public servants, with their superannuation fund chosen for them by their employer. Government superannuation choices do generally include an ethical/ socially responsible option to choose. But how ethical is your government super’s ethical option?
It is important to dig deeper to ensure that your ethical values are reflected within the investment choices that an ethical option can provide. An example of a state government superannuation fund for Queensland public servants is Q-Super. This fund provides a 'Socially Responsible' choice within their fund.
Q-Super’s website provides the following information on the ethics of this fund option: “This is for medium to long-term investors looking for an option that considers the investment’s impact on society and the environment”. Sounds good? Let’s look at the actual investment holdings.
Q-Super’s Socially Responsible Investment option has investments in Coal mines, Oil, and Gas (up to 20% of company value).
Published Shareholdings include:
BHP (Coal, Oil, Gas)
AGL (Largest 'Scope 1' greenhouse gas emitter¹)
Oil Search (PNG oil)
Santos (CSG, Oil, Gas)
Rio Tinto (Uranium, Coal, Other mining)
South32 (Coal, other mining)
(Note: Most recently published holdings Oct 2017)
There are also some laudable investment holdings such as Vesta Wind Systems, Novo Nordisk and Blackmores. However, Q-Super’s Investors would assume from the statement of ethics of the Socially Responsible Fund that it would invest predominantly in positive industries, and also avoid companies with their main operations being in fossil fuels.
So, what can a government superannuation investor do about ensuring that their personal values are reflected in their superannuation fund?
Written by Louise Edkins, Ethical Advisers Co-operative Australia member and Qld based Ethical Investment Adviser Specialist.