26 Sep 2012

Super Fund excludes companies on ethical grounds

10:09 pm on 26 September 2012

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has stepped up its ethical investment policies to exclude several high-profile international companies.

They include firms that run a well-known copper and gold mine in strife-torn West Papua in Indonesia and another that owns the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund, sometimes known as the Cullen Fund, has long avoided investing in things such as whale meat, tobacco, many mines, and cluster bombs.

It has just increased its scope to exclude several new companies.

The fund's manager of responsible investment, Anne Maree O'Connor, says the decision follows long engagement with the companies involved.

"We've always had the option of excluding companies, and in this case, we have excluded them as an endgame to our engagement and to focus our engagement on those companies that we think we can make the most progress with."

Freeport, Tepco shares go

Ms O'Connor says the fund has sold shares worth $1.3 million in Freeport McMorran Copper and Gold which runs the Grasberg mine in West Papua, blaming the company's human rights policies and its payments to Indonesian security forces.

"We had engaged with the company over a number of years. It had in fact made a lot of progress. However, it is really very difficult to make further advance, and this was reflected when there were severe strikes and problems over the last 18 months at the mine."

The fund has also sold $200,000 worth of shares in the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), based on what it calls the company's breaches of environmental and safety standards relating to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

"There was a very good report by Japan's own national investigative committee, which found some real problems in the way that the safety standards had not been developed in the way they should for such a significant nuclear company."

Other companies it will no longer invest in have been accused of bribery, corruption, toxic spills and fatal accidents.

Greens applaud stance

The Green Party is welcoming news the Super Fund has excluded several high-profile international companies.

Co-leader Russel Norman says it is great it is taking a stronger ethical stance.

He says the people of West Papua will be grateful for the fund's stand against the company.