Are super funds taking climate change seriously?

Are super funds taking climate change seriously?

Geoff Summerhayes, APRA, Market Forces, Dan Gocher, superannuation, climate change, climate risk, disclosure,

Despite APRA regulations requiring super funds to provide evidence of their climate change considerations, a new report has found many have not done so – placing them at risk of legal action.

The report, from environmental group Market Forces, found 82 of the 100 largest super funds have provided “inadequate or no tangible evidence” they have considered climate risk in their investment portfolios.

Market Forces also sought legal opinion from Noel Hutley SC and James Mack, who found the failure to address climate risk put trustee directors “at risk of breaching their duty to members”.

 

In a speech on 17 February, Geoff Summerhayes (an executive member of the APRA) said climate risks were becoming “an important and explicit part of our thinking” and that super trustees who failed to disclose the risks climate change posed to their business could be “held personally liable” for breaching regulations.

The Market Forces report found that when considering 99 per cent of all large superannuation fund assets, only 18 out of 100 funds were found to have provided adequate evidence of their consideration of climate risks.

Daniel Gocher, an analyst for Market Forces, said the report’s findings were “extraordinary”.

“More than 80 per cent of Australia’s super funds have still failed to disclose how they are managing an issue that APRA has singled out as an immediate, material, financial risk,” Mr Gocher said.

“Australian regulators have made it clear that super funds need to assess climate risk.

“Since this has largely fallen on deaf ears, it’s no surprise that trustees now find themselves open to legal action for a dereliction of basic fiduciary duty.”

Of the 18 funds found to be up to scratch, only nine were providing their members with “limited” regular research or updates on climate risk.

Though less than one in five super funds were found to disclose climate risk consideration, Mr Gocher attributed this to the slow-moving nature of the industry.

“You can call it group-think: someone doesn’t want to be the first to move, doesn’t want to be the last to move, you just want to go together,” he said.

Are super funds taking climate change seriously?
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