31 October 2018
NIB health insurance disappointed customers and shareholders at its annual general meeting (AGM) today with its continued delay in finishing off the fossil fuel divestment work it began way back in 2016.
In March 2016, NIB dumped coal, oil and gas company shares from its international share portfolio because of the health impacts of these industries. When asked about this at its 2017 meeting, NIB's chairman said NIB felt it was "not appropriate to be invested in those companies." NIB's CEO added that it was the company's "intention" to also divest its Australian shares of fossil fuels.
One year on, shareholder questions confirmed NIB is still invested in polluting coal, oil and gas companies listed in Australia. NIB talked up its sustainability credentials, but these are overshadowed by the fact that it is using customer premiums to help the expansion of the destructive coal, oil and gas industries.
Too difficult to divest
When asked about this contradiction between NIB's actions and its stated pro-health values, CEO Mark Fitzgibbon claimed it was too difficult to divest and that "it was naive of me to set a timetable on it (NIB’s continued divestment from fossil fuels)."
NIB's claim that it's too "difficult" to divest from fossil fuels in Australia is at odds with their competitor Medibank, which is committed to divest completely from them by this financial year end.
Shareholders also asked about NIB's attitude towards the Paris Agreement, inquiring whether the company supports the global goal of limiting warming to well below 2 degrees.
In its annual report the company states: "As a good corporate citizen mindful of future generations, especially given the potential health impacts to individuals and communities due to climate change, we have a role to play in supporting carbon reducing initiatives."
Yet NIB’s board dodged this question entirely, failing to lend its voice to the world's most important carbon reducing initiative to date.
What you can do
Watch the video below for a summary of NIB's current position, and if you have private health insurance, you can also contact your insurer using the form below. Find out where your insurer stands on fossil fuels here.