Australia’s superannuation industry has a couple trillion dollars at its disposal to invest with – 2.6 trillion by some estimates . With your retirement savings, a typical investment strategy involves the allocation of funds into several diversified assets. In saying this, there are few people operating in the financial sector who could explicitly tell you what all these assets are. Most assets can be divided into two main categories: defensive and growth. Defensive assets are the less risky investments and include low risk options with banks, government bodies and overseas based investments. Growth assets are the riskier option and include investments in company shares .
Perhaps if things were more transparent in the superannuation industry, there would be a greater focus on ethical decision making, particularly regarding what overseas investments are made and what company shares are being purchased .
When it comes to considering the future risks associated with climate change, poor decision making could be; investing in shares of company’s contributing on a large scale to anthropogenic driven climate change or long-term assets that would be impacted by climate change, such as infrastructure.
I spoke with Mark McVeigh who has been on ABC news recently for suing his super fund for failing to provide details on how it will minimise the risk of climate change .
“It’s hard to say why they would not have taken climate change risks into account. Especially as I have no idea if they even have or not. They haven’t been able to clearly tell me anything about their investment decisions in relation to climate change apart from ‘they consider environmental and sustainability issues’”.
Environment Justice Australia has assisted him through the process. REST is his Super Fund.
“Of course, there could simply be some people at the top that don’t believe in climate change as a future financial risk (which would disagree with APRA) or it could be a symptom of greater negligence and possibly a failure across the entire superannuation sector to plan for foreseeable changes to the market in general. We simply won’t know until the case proceeds.”
The potential for such negligence involved to not consider the risks of climate change despite APRA’s acknowledgment is concerning, especially when considering the regulation authority oversees banking, insurance and superannuation institutions and was initiated by the Federal government in 1998. APRA is part of a Council that also includes Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).
Mark first got in contact with not-for profit group Market Forces, after hearing about them from YouTube satire comedian friendlyjordies.
“He [friendlyjordies] was talking about armchair campaigners/activists and how people needed to actually do something if they wanted change and mentioned Market Forces and unions as a means to create real action. This was back when Market Forces were running a successful campaign against the Australian banks funding/loaning to Adani. I thought their actions were sound and they were able to make some real change through everyday people and then again when they took the Commonwealth bank to court.”
Mark has taken to the initiative to make his voice heard and stand up for something he genuinely believes in. His actions demonstrate the possibility of change that can come from the simple will of a single individual. You can find out more about what your super is funding at superswitch.org.au.
If you want to know more about this story… Here are some links:
 Vincent, J. 2018 “It’s about time super funds came clean on climate” The Sydney Morning Herald. URL: https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/it-s-about-time-super-funds-came-clean-on-climate-20180801-p4zuy0.html
 BUSSQ, 2018. “How are super funds and pensions invested and why you need to know” URL: https://www.bussq.com.au/investments/investment-basics/how-are-super-funds-and-pensions-invested-and-why-you-need-to-know
 Scott, J and Foley, B. 2018 “Trump’s infrastructure plan gets $2.5 trillion nudge from Australia” The Sydney Morning Herald. URL:
 Slezak, M. 2016 “Superannuation funds encouraging greater fossil fuel exploration, report says” The Guardian. URL:
 Slezak, M. 2018 “Super fund REST being sued for not having a plan for climate change” ABC News. URL: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-25/super-fund-rest-sued-for-not-doing-enough-on-climate-change/10029744)