Could you be investing in tobacco without realising?
04 June 2018
Tobacco is the cause of over 7 million deaths every single year. It contributes towards environmental degradation, supports child labour and sustains a cycle of poverty in developing countries. Your super fund could be investing in companies that support the tobacco industry.
What if we told you that you could be investing in an unethical industry without even knowing?
Like many young Australians, you may consider yourself conscious of what's going on in the world. You're aware of current events, concerned about the impact of global warming, and social responsibility is one of your core values. But are you investing in tobacco through your Australian super fund?
Well, if you've never checked where your super fund invests, there's a chance you could be.
Are you investing in an industry that kills 7 million people a year?
Bronwyn King, a radiation oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, discovered that in spite of her principles and her profession, she'd been investing in tobacco for years without knowing about it. Unwittingly, her retirement savings were supporting an industry that contributes to the death of over 7 million people globally every year, simply because she was enrolled in her super fund's default option.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The World Health Organisation and Plan International have revealed that the tobacco industry also contributes to deforestation and often exacerbates poverty and supports child labour in developing countries.
Because many Australian superannuation funds invest in tobacco, if you've never investigated where your super is going, you might be funding the industry. Even if you do investigate, you may not find out the information you need—Finder reveals that 19 out of the top 50 Australian super funds won't reveal where they invest their money.
Australian super funds that invest in tobacco are contributing towards the destruction of the world's forests.
What can you do about this?
The first step is to try to discover where your Australian super fund is investing. Visit your super fund's website or contact them directly to gather some information about where they invest. There's no guarantee you'll find this information if they don't disclose it, but it's a good place to start. Should this be the case, or you discover your super fund is investing in tobacco, you may want to consider your investment option or the super fund you're with. Let's take a look at these options:
- Option A - Change your investment option: Don't know which investment option you're in? It's time to find out! Remember all that paperwork you got when you first joined your super fund? Try to dig that out of your bedside drawer and rifle through it. It's likely you'll find information on which option you're investing in there. If you don't know, it's likely you've been enrolled in the default option. Some super funds offer ethical investment options, but you'll need to inform them that you'd like to switch to these. Your super fund's website is a good place to start to find out more information on how to change your investment option.
- Option B - Switch to an ethical super fund: Some Australian super funds incorporate ethical investing into their entire business model, and refuse to invest in companies that support unethical industries. These funds are often more open about where they invest, because they don't have as much to hide. Changing super funds isn't a difficult process, and if it means you have peace of mind that you're not funding unethical industries, it will be worth taking the time to do it.
Local Government Super is a super fund committed to ethical investing. We conduct negative screening to limit our exposure to companies involved in industries such as tobacco, uranium mining, armaments, gambling and controversial weapons. We were the first super fund in Australia to stop investing in tobacco in 2001 and we're proud partners of Tobacco Free Portfolios, a not-for-profit that aims to inform, prioritise and advance tobacco free investment by eliminating tobacco from investment portfolios across the globe.
For a super fund that aligns with your values and won't support those industries that are harming people and the planet we live in, consider making the switch today.
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