The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has published its latest report on the voting records of Australia’s largest superannuation funds on environmental, social and governance (ESG) resolutions between 2017 and 2020.
The key findings are as follows:
- Aggregate support for all ESG proposals fell slightly between 2019 and 2020 from 43% to 42%. This is a significant fall from 54% aggregate support in 2018.
- Eight funds supported more than 50% of proposals in 2020: NGS Super (86%), Vision Super (79%), Cbus (71%), Active Super (64%), HESTA (63%), Energy Super (59%), AustralianSuper (57%) and Care Super (54%).
- Nine funds supported a majority of proposals between 2017 and 2020: Active Super (76%), Vision Super (69%), HESTA (65%), Cbus (63%), Macquarie (62%), NGS Super (58%), Mercer (54%), AustralianSuper (51%) and Qantas Super (50%).
- Seven funds consistently supported more than 50% of climate-related proposals between 2017 and 2020.
- Six funds supported more than 50% of social-related proposals between 2017 and 2020.
- 22 out of 50 funds published complete voting records in 2020, 17 of these were not-for-profit funds (industry and public sector); in 2017, just 12 funds disclosed a complete proxy voting record.
- Eight funds do not disclose a voting record at all, compared to 11 in 2017.
Commenting on the report, Dan Gocher, Director of Climate & Environment at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) said:
“Six of the biggest super funds in the country - AMP, BT, Colonial First State, Commonwealth Super Corp, MLC and QSuper - either don’t vote, don’t disclose their voting records or support far fewer ESG proposals than their peers.
“Together these six funds manage more than $748 billion, or approximately 38% of APRA-regulated funds. Their members deserve better transparency and stronger support for ESG issues.
“Despite a growing number of super funds claiming to incorporate ESG into their investment processes, the majority of super funds are still failing to support ESG proposals.
“We applaud the eight funds that supported a majority of ESG proposals between 2017 and 2020, but the vast majority of funds continue to pay lip service to ESG when it comes to proxy voting.
“Incidentally, the best performing funds (according to APRA) tend to have better disclosure and are more supportive of ESG proposals.
“Despite every Australian having an interest in superannuation, there is no legal requirement for funds to disclose their voting record or how they have voted on ESG issues.
“Since ACCR began reviewing the voting records of Australia’s largest superannuation companies in 2018, disclosure has improved, but only 22 of the 50 largest funds publish a complete proxy voting record.
“Voting in favour of shareholder resolutions, or filing such resolutions, is an accepted tool of active company stewardship, and an important mechanism for investors to raise concerns to company management. This tool is under-utilised by super funds, who are often expressing their frustration with companies through divestment.”
This report is dedicated to Leif Justham:
It was with deep sadness that ACCR learned, in April this year, of the death of climate activist Leif Justham. At 21 years of age, Leif was a talented, dedicated and effective advocate. He was particularly passionate about showing people the power of making smart choices about their superannuation fund, in the interest of a safe climate. Tragically, he was killed on 6 April 2021 in a road accident while cycling across the Nullarbor to raise awareness of the links between climate change and investment. Leif’s death is a devastating loss to both the climate movement and the ethical investment community. We have been extremely humbled by the support for ACCR from Leif’s family and community, and wish to dedicate this report to Leif’s memory.