Geoffrey Robertson international celebrity human rights lawyer has used the (ASFA) 2013 National Conference in Perth to highlight the importance of responsible, ethical investment.
Robertson used the occasion to comment on the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), saying that, “these are ideological megatrends uncharted by the CSIRO that may impact on your superannuation trustees’ work. How do we factor moral megatrends into our decisions, especially when we face the widespread belief that ethical investing doesn’t bring in the same return as unethical investing?”
Robertson said,“ a more positive strategy than simply screening out certain investments was actively investing in companies that bring in some sort of social or environmental good” and used the GAVI Alliance social impact bond as an example of a constructive strategy.
The GAVI Alliance social impact bond’s intention is to increase immunisation in developing countries using long- term donor pledges to issue vaccine bonds on the capital markets with the return being met by governments and ensuring a near-term positive impact on public health.
Pauline Vamos, the ASFA chief used the example of the growing public demand for super funds to divest in tobacco companies and noted that, “It is a matter for each fund how they respond to tobacco investment, but this is just one area where you will need to have an answer,” she said. “Whatever the issue, each fund will need to step up beyond the horizon.”
Other speakers included Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) chairman Tony Lally whose key message was that, “superannuation funds risk government intervention unless they self-regulate on governance.” He said that, ”self-regulation by funds on governance was preferable to government intervention saying that, “it is important to arrive at a system of self-regulation if we are not to risk having it imposed by Government.”