Reason why health workers are dumping a huge Aussie super fund

Health professionals have massively withdrawn their savings from a major Aussie super-fund to send a powerful message.

Reason why health workers are dumping a huge Aussie super fund

On Friday, a group of more than 130 doctors and nurses divested their money from the HESTA industry fund in direct response to the company’s investment in fossil fuels.

According to Market Forces, the climate advocacy group behind the move, HESTA has invested about $2 billion in fossil fuel companies, including oil and gas giants Woodside and Santos.

Pediatric anesthetist Dr. Richard Barnes said he was particularly concerned about the health impacts of the climate crisis.

“I have been a member of HESTA for a long time, and I am well aware that they still have significant stakes in several companies primarily engaged in fossil fuels,” he said.

“I’ve decided to take my retirement money elsewhere. I can be sure it won’t support fossil fuel companies.”

Camera icon More than 130 health professionals are transferring their savings to super-funds that don’t invest in a planned action in fossil fuels. iStock Credit: Included

Any savings from those involved in the action will flow an estimated $11.7 million out of HESTA.

With more than 930,000 members, HESTA has approximately $68 billion in funds under management.

It is considered the largest single-climate divestment day focused on a pension fund in Australia’s history.

“, The amount of money we’re going to get out of HESTA is only a fraction of their total super pool, but I hope our action will send a message,” said Dr. Barnes.

Former nurse and director of the Mental Health Coordinating Council, Jenna Bateman, said HESTA, along with many members in the health and wellness sector, should be a leader in tackling climate change, which will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable.

“It’s a bit past planning time; it is now time to do it. They need to divest from fossil fuels, and I think if you take your money away or raise the issue, it just puts them under pressure,” she said.

Sonya Sawtell-Rickson, Chief Investment Officer of HESTA, said immediate divestment of fossil fuels is not necessarily the best way to drive positive change in businesses.

Camera Icon According to HESTA, the focus has been on improving the long-term financial results for its members when navigating the energy transition. Delivered September 2015 Credit: Delivered

“Simply selling stock in these companies, without first trying to change their behavior, will not help reduce emissions or mitigate systemic risk,” she said.

“As a shareholder, HESTA can engage directly with companies exposed to transition risks to push for more climate action.”

According to Ms. Sawtell-Rickson, HESTA used shareholders’ meetings to vote against Woodside and Santos’s plans that did not comply with the Paris agreement.

She added that where companies failed to respond or improve their practices, divestment was an option “where it is in the members’ best financial interests”.

HESTA is not alone in struggling to balance its fossil fuel divestment with broader economic concerns and impact on its investment portfolios.

The smaller fund, NGS Super, has a more ambitious target to make its USD 12 billion holdings carbon neutral by 2030, with an interim target of a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

“If we want to decarbonize the portfolio tomorrow, we could, but that would be a high cost to our members’ investment performance and retirement savings,” said NGS CEO Ben Squires.

“We are committed not to make new investments in assets that we believe cannot transition to the low-carbon economy.”

Camera icon Some health professionals say a super fund that represents them, in particular, should be more at the forefront of an issue like climate change. NCA NewsWire/Dylan Coker Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms. Bateman said she has yet to choose a better alternative super fund as she struggles to distinguish true sustainability claims from “greenwashing”.

“It has to be transparent; As a gambler, I shouldn’t have to struggle through a lot of information and words that don’t tell me what I need to know. They hide the truth from me,” she said.

Ms. Bateman added that immediate divestment of all fossil fuels was not a deal breaker. Still, institutions had to demonstrate clear and concrete timelines if they wanted to extend the process over several years.

“Seeing a clear exit plan makes me more likely to stay with an institution — but it has to be very clear and very real,” she said.

“I don’t want ‘we will consider divesting in five years. I want to know that they will know in five years.”

Dr. Bateman said he had chosen two funds as an alternative with no interest in fossil fuel funds.

He explained that switching funds was surprisingly simple and could be done by approaching the new fund with the details of your current super fund, and “basically, they do the work for you”.

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.