Major Super Funds Abandon Crucial Climate Agreements – What Could This Mean?

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As some of the world’s most significant super funds pledge to abandon crucial international climate agreements, the implications for global sustainability and economic stability are immense.

Last year, the term “greenwashing” was finally included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary after more than 30 years. It would benefit the antonym “greenhushing” to receive similar recognition sooner rather than later.

Greenwashing implies that some companies are reducing their environmental commitments due to increased regulatory scrutiny, and Australia’s $3.4 trillion superannuation sector is a significant player in this trend.

Climate change commitments of funds have been missing from their websites around the country without any clear explanation.

UniSuper removed 16 pages from its climate risk report, which contained estimates of the emissions from its investments.

Active Super removed its entire 70-page Responsible Investment Report, which previously outlined how the company’s portfolio was evaluated for ESG risk.

However, AustralianSuper, which has $274 billion in assets, surpassed them all. The company removed its climate report and “Net Zero by 2050” fact sheet from its website. Additionally, it made several edits to its “How we invest: Climate change” webpage.

The changes were made shortly after the corporate watchdog began a significant court case against Mercer, a retail super fund accused of greenwashing. The watchdog also cautioned the superannuation sector to expect more cases like this in the future.

AustralianSuper, UniSuper, and Active Super websites were edited shortly after the climate campaign group Market Forces accused five significant super funds of not using their influence over fossil fuel companies they invest in, despite having ambitious environmental goals.

“It is paramount that super investors realise their immense power over corporate behaviour,” says Market Forces’ Campaigns Manager, Pablo Brait. “If they are unwilling to use it, they must at least be honest about their intentions.”

ASIC monitors greenwashing closely and encourages individuals to report if their super funds must keep their promises to push companies towards zero emissions. However, it may be challenging to report if there is no record of the promises made.

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