As we know, where we put our money as a society is where we grant social licence. In an ideal world, we would invest our money in companies and industries that we want to see grow and thrive, and expect to benefit in return. For decades, coal, oil and gas companies have benefited from the social licence awarded to them through our investments. Every cent that our institutions invest in coal, oil and gas, gives them the credibility they need to operate. And, we don’t benefit in return, instead, we’re facing a climate crisis as a result of their polluting actions.
So we started a divestment movement, where people like you and me called on our institutions to pull their fossil fuel investments, and rule out new investments in coal, oil and gas companies. What we’ve achieved so far is amazing. As Bill McKibben wrote recently, the campaign has not only persuaded investors to divest US$8 trillion (that’s 12 zeros!), it has also helped de-legitimise the coal, oil and gas sectors and is speeding up their decline.
However, there’s still a way to go. Many of us still have our KiwiSaver funds tied up with dirty energy, even many of of us who passionately campaign against these industries. Why? Not because we want to, but because until recently, there haven’t been many ethical options available, and it has been extremely difficult to get clear, objective information about different KiwiSaver funds.
I’ll let Barry tell you about it from here. He says,
“I have set up a new initiative, Mindful Money to overcome these barriers. Firstly, we provide objective information. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in your KiwiSaver account, now you can find out. Mindful Money has analysed all 260 KiwiSaver funds, and we can tell you how much your fund is investing in fossil fuels, and which companies. All you need to do is enter the name of your KiwiSaver fund and we will let you know what you’re invested in. We provide radical transparency on KiwiSaver funds.
We can also let you know about their investments in gambling, weapons and GMOs, and in companies that violate human rights or test cosmetics on animals.
Secondly, we have done the research and compared the options. Mindful Money can help you ‘find the fund that fits’. The Mindful Money website has a list of KiwiSaver funds that have a divestment policy. We also show you the financial information about these funds so you can make an informed decision.
As you can see on the website, not all of these funds have yet divested, but they are on the pathway to doing so. We are encouraging them to go further, to broaden their scope of what is included in ‘fossil fuels’ and to include their indirect investments through other funds.
If you want to consider other factors as well as fossil fuels, you can use the tool ‘find the fund that fits’ to set your criteria in terms of the things you care about, your preferred investment approach and your risk profile. Mindful Money will then match you with the funds that best meet your criteria.
And thirdly, we have research on the website that shows you that, on average, responsible investment funds provide financial returns that are as high or higher than conventional funds. It shouldn’t be a surprise – the companies that care about climate stability, people and sustainability are more trusted, have strong brand loyalty, engaged staff, no environmental fines, etc. And no investments in sectors like coal that have been in decline. If you can earn good returns from being ethical, why not?
Mindful Money is a charity. Our aim is to shift a large proportion of the $56 billion in KiwiSaver funds out of pollution and exploitation into more sustainable investments. We are challenging the investment sector to do good with our funds instead of doing harm. There’s a long way to go. Currently only 2% of KiwiSaver funds have a policy to avoid divest from fossil fuels.
We’re planning a major campaign to shift KiwiSaver and later, other investment funds. We aim to support the campaigns of 350 Aotearoa and others, providing a new campaign tool that is focused on leading change through individual action. If we get enough support, the investment providers and institutional investors will be forced to change.
You can take action through your KiwiSaver. It’s not hard. It’s free, quick and easy to switch your KiwiSaver. You can feel good about your KiwiSaver. You can do good. And you can earn good returns.
And you can help us by spreading the word. Sign up to hear about news, events and campaigns. Share the story. Help us build a Mindful Money movement!
It’s time that money serves the interests of society, rather than the other way around.
To check your KiwiSaver and find a fund that fits, visit www.mindfulmoney.nz”
Barry Coates is a climate campaigner, former Green Party list MP, Board member of 350 Aotearoa and the founder and CEO of Mindful Money.