17 October 2014: Community leaders have voiced support for ANU’s right to divest. Escalating tensions have followed last week’s commitment by the Australian National University (ANU) to divest its sizable endowment from seven companies with questionable environmental credentials. A backlash emerged when companies blacklisted by ANU began to protest. These resource companies were not only from beyond big fossil fuel producers, but also producers of nickel, gold, copper and other materials. Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne labelled the Australian National University’s (ANU) decision to sell off its shares in seven mining companies as “bizarre”.
To counter the backlash and raise awareness of corporate social responsibility principles, the Australia Institute organised an open letter in Wednesday’s Canberra Times, signed by dozens of investors and business people, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former Liberal leader John Hewson. The group signed in support of ANU’s right to divest or ivest from companies based on social, environmental or ethical grounds.
The Australia Institute is working with others to take out a full page advertisement in Fridays’ Australian Financial Review, only this time it will feature an open letter from outraged investors AND members of the public.
Fossil fuel divestment gains momentum
Following is the text of the open letter in The Canberra Times:
We the undersigned support the Australian National University’s right to invest in, or divest from, any companies on environmental, social or ethical grounds.
We are investors and business people who have never been publicly challenged for selling shares in a company for reasons of conscience or financial risk management. Such decisions are standard practice and have been for generations. Self-interested voices calling “foul” only strengthen our resolve and, no doubt, that of ANU.
The ANU council’s decision to broaden the scope of companies that they will not invest in beyond tobacco is consistent with the approach of a growing number of investors around the world including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Stanford University. The decision is also consistent with the views of 82 per cent of ANU students and a number of staff.
We support the role of choice in the Australian economy and cannot understand why a government that is committed to deregulating the university sector would question the ability of a university to make investment decisions.
It is every investor’s right to make their own investment decisions without bullying from vested interests and government ministers. It is ANU’s obligation to invest responsibly, which includes thinking about their environmental social standards, how they impact on financial returns and how they reflect on the character of the institution.
The list of signatures include:
Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH
Professor John Hewson AM, Crawford School, ANU
John & Sue McKinnon, directors, McKinnon Family Foundation
Gary Seaton, Director, Energreen Nutrition Australia Pty Ltd
David Deverall, CEO, Hunter Hall
Phil Vernon, managing director, Australian Ethical Investment
Simon O’Conno, CEO, Responsible Investment Association Australasia
Simon Sheikh, Founder, Future Super
James Thier, Director, Future Super
Trevor Thomas, Managing Director, Ethinvest
Caroline Le Couteur, Executive Director, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility
Howard Pender, Research Director, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility
Naomi Edwards, Chairman, Tasplan Super
Bob Brown, Chair, Bob Brown Foundation
Piers Grove, Exective Director, The Republic
Gabrielle Duigu, Investor
Dr Peter Barker, Super Fund Trustee
Peter & Sue Kaldor, irectors, New River Leadership
Jane Abercrombie, Chris Lock, Chief Executive Officer, Impact Investment Group
Will Richardson, Chief Investment Officer, Impact Investment Group
David Robinson, Investor
Stuart Barry, Tas Ethical
Kassia Klinger, Author, Confessions of Ethical Inve$ting
Jonathan Shaw, Self-funded retiree
Joy Scott, Investor
Murray Scott, Trustee
The Noble Family
Graeme Wood AM, Investor
Rob Purves AM, Director, RPG Management Pty Ltd
Kit Holmes and Dr E J Silverstone
Professor Hans-A. Bachor AM, Investor
Dr Richard Stiles
Dr Sharnie Wu
Alex Dunnin, Executive Director of Research & Compliance, Rainmaker Group
Hugh Saddler, Investor
Dr Michael Henry, Managing Director, The Strategy Shop
Steve Macdonald, Investment Director, Infi nitas Asset Management Ltd.
Ross Knowles, Director, Ross Knowles Foundatoion
Dr Peter Sainsbury & Dr Lynne Madden, Directors, Madden Sainsbury Foundation
Josette Wunder, Director, Earth Welfare Foundation
Tara Hunt, Director, The Hunt Foundation
Sally Perini, Director, Pace Foundation
Sarah Wright & Matthew Webb, Directors, Madirriny Foundation
Sarah Stegley, Investor
Diana Gibson, Investor
Lindsay Peters, Trustee for Anderson-Peters Superannuation Fund
Karen McLeod, Ethical Investment Advisers
Steve Posselt, Managing Director, Kayak4earth Pty Ltd
Sandi Keane, Investor
Dr Bernadette Vogelzang, Trustee, Halcyon Super Fund
Dan Mathews, Steve Mathews, Sue Mathews and Trudy Wyse, Trustees Mullum Trust
Anne-Marie Spagnolo & Michelle Brisbane, Ethical Investment Services
Dr Terry Lustig, Fellow, Institution of Engineers
Dr Eileen Lustig, Director, Environmental Management Pty Ltd
Read the ABC’s story about corporate and government reactions to ANU’s divestment here.
Read ANU’s story about the backlash here at their own website, upholding the power of ideas and ANU’s right to divest.
Learn more about the ‘hands off’ campaign here.
Read a story on the topic by Carol Adams of Monash University in The Conversation here and a story about churches who are divesting here at the ABC. And here is a story by Business Spectator on divestment (17 October).
Ticky Fullerton of the ABC’s The Business interviewed Roger Montgomery on 24 September 2014 who shared his views on what he considers to be investment-worthy, outside of companies in the business of selling commodities.
Learn more about Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) reporting requirements for Australian Stock Exchange listed companies here.
Consumer Divestment Day – 17 October 2014
In other divestment news, a community group, ‘Market Forces’ is leading a campaign to encourage consumers to abandon banks that fund fossil fuel projects. The following Channel Ten news story covered an event in Brisbane at which bank customers closed accounts and cut up their cards from the big 4 banks.
You can check if your bank is investing in fossil fuels at http://www.marketforces.org.au/banks/compare.