Feature

Ethical super

Green Lifestyle Magazine

It’s one of those things we always manage to put off – but how hard is it really to roll your superannuation into a fund where your money is invested ethically? Danielle Chenery does the numbers.

ethical-super

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I’m just about to start a permanent job, after spending the last few years working from home since my daughter was born – so paid superannuation is once again on its way. The difference is, this time I want to know exactly where my money is going.

Since my daughter’s arrival, I’ve tried hard to ‘green’ my life. My to-do list is long – with solar panels and a worm farm still yet to be ticked off – but, next up; ethical super.

With retirement a long way off and the stock market a mystifying entity, I’ve never looked deeply into superannuation companies. But one thing I do know – superannuation companies are loaded. Because it’s compulsory in Australia, super funds are given truckloads of cash. And as far as I see it, that money can be used for good or evil. I would never feel comfortable investing directly in gambling, uranium mining, or companies that use sweatshop labour, but through super, I may be doing just that.

I’ve been investing with an industry fund for most of my working life – it was an easy option. But I’m not sure mine quite cuts it in the ethical stakes. My current company offers ‘socially responsible investing’ but what does this mean and where is my money going? The actual companies invested in are not listed on the website, so I decided to call up and find out.

Having been directed to their sustainable future shares fact sheet, I still had no luck finding out where my money was going. So I was given head office’s number. A few weeks later an email rolled into my inbox, listing the investment companies. It was littered heavily with mining corporations, petroleum, and fast food and drink companies.

So I googled ‘Australian ethical super options’, which directed me towards Australian Ethical Investment + Superannuation. Here was a company totally invested in ethical enterprises. I didn’t need to look for the ethical option – as they all were – just what level of risk I was prepared to take.

Australian Ethical claims to avoid investment in industries that have a negative impact on society and the environment (tick), it proactively searches for investments that contribute to society and the environment (another tick), and, my favourite of all, it has a dialogue with companies it invests in for the purpose of raising issues and advocating positive change to company practices. It puts its money where its mouth is.
As for financial gain, it makes sense to me there would be a financial long-term advantage in investing in ethical and sustainable industries because, by necessity, I believe that is where the world is heading.

To make the move all I had to do was fill in the form, armed with my personal details and tax file number, and choose my mix of investments. With at least 30 years left in the workforce, I chose a mix of ‘risky’ with ‘balanced’. I liked that it meant I got to invest in climate advocacy and smaller companies. I liked there was a list of all companies invested in. And, I like that it was easy. Now for that worm farm…