Where are your KiwiSaver funds invested?
Millions of us are unwittingly investing in tobacco companies, cluster bombs, mines and nuclear weapons.
We don’t intend to put our money into ‘‘sin stocks’’. But that’s what our KiwiSaver funds invest in. Bank savings can end up in armaments and the like, too.
In fact, 95 per cent of New Zealanders in a survey said they wanted KiwiSaver funds to consider ethical factors like the environment - climate change, loss of natural habitat, and pollution – and social issues like child labour and human rights. But many fund managers stubbornly believe that people are happy to discard their values when it comes to their money.
That’s what specialist Waikato ethical investment adviser Janet Natta routinely finds. Despite the comprehensive research done by the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA), which shows Kiwis rate ethical or socially responsible investment highly.
Last year’s RIAA survey of more than a thousand Kiwi investors showed more than half - 55 per cent - would be more likely to invest in a KiwiSaver fund that was certified by an independent body as a ‘Responsible or Ethical Investor’.
And a third of respondents said that when considering where to invest retirement savings their decisions were weighted 50/50 between financial factors and personal values.
No wonder Kiwis were horrified last year when media investigations revealed that more than two million of us were unwitting investors in big tobacco companies and makers of banned weapons, including cluster bombs, through their KiwiSaver providers.
Despite a public outcry little has changed, Natta told a shocked audience at a Green Party Waikato branch discussion on ethical investing recently.
After her talk, many people said they would be phoning their KiwiSaver providers, banks and investment advisers to find what their money was supporting. To make sure investors have the sort of investment options that accord with their personal values, in government, the Green Party would establish a public, ethical default KiwiSaver fund.
As well, the Greens would establish a $100 million Green Infrastructure Fund, like those in Europe, Australia and six US states, to bring government and private sector finance together to build projects to transform the economy and create jobs in clean industries like solar and wind energy, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency, biofuel, and sustainable agriculture.
The Greens’ goal is for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050. And it’s not alone. The $35 billion NZ Superannuation Fund has spent the last five years researching how best to assess climate change risk and incorporate that into its investment decisions.
Investors, whether individual, corporate or government, know where they put their money can make a difference – and they want to make the ethical choice.
-Philippa Stevenson is Green Party’s Waikato candidate.
Waikato ethical investment adviser Janet Natta and Green Party candidate for the Waikato electorate, Philippa Stevenson.