We live in a capitalist society which means money is power. Today more than ever the power of social change is in your hands; you are powerful.
Author: Casey Abel
Climate Anxiety is a term most Australians are familiar with nowadays. In the past several years our country has endured catastrophic nation-wide bushfires exacerbated by countless enduring droughts. Memory of the shameful mass fish kills along the Murray Darling still haunt our thoughts. As too do the emerging photographs exposing the destruction of our ancient Tasmanian forests. The list goes on.
Of climate change words cannot aptly express the frustration many of us feel at our federal government’s determination to bury their heads in the proverbial sand. Particularly now that they have made us the laughingstock of the international community. There is though a silver lining. The platitude ‘we vote with our wallets’ is true beyond the shadow of a doubt. In this article I would like to share ways you can personally make a difference and, I hope, ease our collective anxieties towards the future.
How our Superannuation, Managed Funds and Bank choices impact the world
Us Australians tend to have a laissez-faire attitude towards our financial institutions. This needs to change. Super Funds, Managed Funds, and Banks all operate in a similar fashion. When our wages are deposited into our Super, when we invest money into a fund, and when we deposit savings into our bank accounts, these institutions invest our money into other companies so that they themselves may turn a profit.
Most Australians do not pay attention to this process. If that sounds like you then there is every likelihood that your money is being used to fund Fossil Fuel companies. The ‘Big Four Banks’ namely ANZ, Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank have invested a combined $35.5 billion in Fossil Fuels companies since 2016. Click here to see where your bank measures up. Another abhorrent contributor to climate change is deforestation and exploitative agriculture. Both of which not only destroy ecosystems, but empower companies and governments to dispossess First Nations peoples around the world of their natural resources and land, notably in Brazil and Indonesia. An example of such a company is Wilmar, who not only dispossess First Nations peoples of their lands, but are also known for providing unsafe working conditions and for exploiting child labour. As well, in building their Palm Oil plantations they are often bulldozing the habitat of the endangered orangutan. Wilmar are heavily funded by the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac.
Unless all your finances are with ethical financial institutions chances are your savings are also funding weapons manufacturing thus contributing to wars in the Third World. Yes you read that correctly, and no this is not a dramatisation. Financial institutions exist to make money, ergo they invest in profitable enterprises; war is profitable. Consider the company Lockheed Martin who are one of the largest weapons manufacturers on the planet. In 2018 one of their missiles was used to detonate a bus in Yemen killing 28 school children. The ANZ bank invested US$258,000,000 in the Lockheed Martin company in 2019. The ANZ bank also happens to be one of Australia’s most prominent financiers of nuclear weapons production generally. Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank also invest in Lockheed Martin. Economics is real – your money impacts the world.
How can I ‘take control’ of my money?
The short answer is: Conduct your business i.e. banking and investing, with Ethical Institutions. When I was 21, I determined to ensure that my money will never be invested in a company that places profits before environmental or human wellbeing. A personal note: some commercial institutions now offer ‘ethical options’ which is great. In my view though, being ethical should not be an option but the default; it is a civic duty and moral obligation. Below are some ethical organisations you can switch over to if you so desire. Switching is easy and typically only takes a couple of minutes. I put my money where my mouth is; I am a customer of each of the following institutions.
Bank Australia is a customer owned bank which defines itself by being an economic force for good in the economy and community. Their Responsible Banking Policy outlines their criteria that companies must meet in order to be liable for their investing. Their 2020 Impact Report is comprehensive in detailing how their practices benefit people and planet. Bank Australia goes above and beyond in every capacity. All members are part owners in Bank Australia’s nature conservation reserve in Victoria; yes they even use their profits to buy and conserve land for wildlife. You can view the reserve here. After watching the short video you can engage in an interactive tour with the reserve comprised of satellite imagery. Bank Australia are community focused consistently publishing educational literature on their website, and advertising ethical Australian businesses. They have many programs to support their customers in being environmentally friendly, and are sincere in supporting customers struggling through financial hardship.
Future Super is a relatively young Australian superfund, despite their youth they have smashed the competition in financial returns for their customers during Covid. Like Bank Australia, they have set policy on who is eligible for investing which can be found here. Unlike most financial institutions, Future Super are transparent with their customers about the companies they invest in, you can search their registry here. Future Super are also community focused. When I joined several years ago, I received a personal phone call from the CEO Simon Sheikh welcoming me to the fund. At the time this was a courtesy call given to all new members. Similarly during an advertisement campaign they held in January 2020, all members who agreed had their names printed in a full page advertisement published in the Australian. You’ll notice my name is second on the list. To view, right click and open the image in a new tab.
Unquestionably, Australian Ethical Investment is true to its ethical label, evidenced by the robust integration of ESG principles into the investment processes, activism, advocacy, and memberships undertaken by the firm. Further evidence is provided by the company’s proudly ethical approach to employees, suppliers, investors, and shareholders.Morningstar
You may have noticed a trend that ethical institutions are community focused. Perhaps my favourite aspect of being a customer of Australian Ethical is that at the end of each financial year they donate 10% of their after tax profits to charitable organisations and social impact initiatives. Where the money goes is determined democratically by the customers who vote on the shortlisted candidates. This truly is ‘taking control’ of your money.
You are Powerful
We live in a capitalist society which means money is power. Today more than ever the power of social change is in your hands; you are powerful. Scott Morison and his supporters can prioritise coal and gas all they like. One study shows that even without government support, just 7.7% of Australians’ superannuation could (and is) fund Australia’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Together we can create a world we want to live in, and it’s as simple as switching a few institutions.