According to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), 65 Sunsuper and 141 QSuper members have written to their superannuation funds calling on them to stop investing in thermal coal.
The ACF states that members are urging the funds to reconcile stated commitments to invest responsibly with their investments in high-emitting assets.
Last month, QSuper and Sunsuper signed a Heads of Agreement to merge and create a $200 billion superannuation fund, servicing two million members. The merger is planned to proceed in September this year.
According to the ACF, the members’ letters call on QSuper’s Chief of Member Experience, Jason Murray, and Sunsuper’s Chief Member Officer, Steven Travis, to disclose:
- A detailed list of companies the funds invest in;
- Emissions reduction strategies for the funds’ respective portfolios;
- If the funds have conducted portfolio-wide scenario analysis on climate change risks; and
- The precise engagement processes each fund undertakes with investee companies to reduce their carbon exposures.
The ACF’s Economic Analyst and Campaigner, May House (who is also a Sunsuper member), said QSuper and Sunsuper were well behind Australia’s largest industry super funds on managing climate risks.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen some of Australia’s largest super funds, like HESTA and Unisuper, respond to members’ concerns and commit to lead the superannuation sector towards net-zero by exiting thermal coal investments,” she said.
“Yet QSuper and Sunsuper are dragging their heels on climate and acting against the best interests of their members.”
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, the Hon. Keith Pitt, said suggestions that QSuper and Sunsuper should abandon coal ‘will deprive hundreds of thousands of members of a good investment option’.
“The Conservation [Foundation] says around 200 members have written to the funds calling on them to stop investing in coal which is about 0.01 per cent of QSuper and Sunsuper’s combined membership,” he said.
“To deprive over 1.88 million other members of solid investment returns on the whim of a relative few and the ideological motives of the Conservation [Foundation] is farcical.”
The Minister said several major resource companies have plans for new coal mines and expansion to existing ones and Australian superannuation funds should be free to support, and invest in, a legitimate and productive Australian industry.
“At my request, Parliament’s Trade and Investment Growth Committee is holding an inquiry into the financial sector’s treatment of Australian export industries, including resources.”
“There are over 260 thousand hard-working Australians who are directly employed by the resources industry, and over a million more whose jobs are supported by the sector. They deserve better than to miss out on further opportunities as a result of ideologically-driven activism.”
About the inquiry
The Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth has commenced an inquiry into the prudential regulation of investment in Australia’s export industries.
The inquiry will investigate the potential impact on investment opportunities for Australian exporters of changes in practices by banks, insurers and superannuation funds, as well as the advice and guidance provided by financial regulators which affects the investment opportunities for Australian exporters.
In February, the Committee Chair George Christensen MP said given the importance of exports to Australia’s economy, the inquiry will be an opportunity to examine an issue that could have significant ramifications for the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and beyond.
“Exports from sectors such as agriculture, resources, and defence manufacturing generate billions of dollars for the Australian economy and attract a significant amount of investment. If there are changes in the financial services sector which impact on Australia’s exporting industries, particularly those in regional areas, the Parliament must take an interest,” Mr Christensen said.
At the time, the Committee Deputy Chair, Ged Kearney MP, also said ‘the inquiry will consider the possible opportunities and challenges that could arise for Australian exporters from any changes in financial services sector practices’.
More information on the inquiry can be found on the Committee’s webpage.