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New Analysis: Australia’s biggest super fund backs top fossil gas producer

12 September 2023


Tuesday 12 September, 2023: New analysis by Market Forces reveals Australia’s biggest super fund, AustralianSuper, is one of the top five shareholders in the country’s largest oil and gas company, Woodside, increasing to 85 million shares in 2022.

The new analysis finds that out of 18 funds that voted against Woodside’s climate plan in 2022, AustralianSuper was the only fund that failed to escalate pressure on the company by voting against management in 2023, based on available disclosures, while NGS Super had fully divested before this year’s vote.

Market Forces also finds that the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, voted against the re-election of Woodside director Ian Macfarlane on climate grounds in 2023. Several of Vanguard’s funds also voted against Macfarlane’s re-election this year. BlackRock and Vanguard are the two biggest investors in fossil fuels globally.

Brett Morgan, Superannuation Funds Campaigner, Market Forces, said:

“AustralianSuper bought tens of millions of shares in Woodside last year and has failed to use this increased influence over the company to demand an end to its oil and gas expansion plans.

“By throwing its full support behind Woodside’s board, AustralianSuper has signalled its approval for the company’s reckless oil and gas expansion. AustralianSuper’s actions undermine its own climate commitments, which is a clear cut case of greenwashing.

“AustralianSuper has backpedalled so hard on climate action that the wheels have fallen off and fund members are furious.”

The Market Forces analysis finds the default investment options of Australia’s 30 largest super funds collectively invest $5.4 billion of members’ retirement savings in Woodside and $2.1 billion in Santos.

Australia’s top 30 super funds’ default options own eight per cent of Woodside’s shares and a nine per cent stake in Santos.

Six of the 30 funds in this analysis have disclosed votes against Santos’ climate plan at its 2022 annual general meeting (AGM). The Market Forces analysis reveals five of those funds escalated pressure on Santos by voting against management on at least one item of business at its 2023 AGM. The sixth fund, NGS Super, refused to give Santos any more chances, selling all of its shares in the oil and gas company last year.

“Members are demanding funds take stronger climate action by delivering an end to fossil fuel expansion,” said Mr Morgan.

“Super funds have already enabled monstrous carbon bombs like Woodside’s Scarborough gas project, but they must act immediately to stop even bigger and dirtier projects like the Browse gas field off Western Australia.

“All super funds must end the greenwashing by immediately and publicly ramping up efforts to stop new or expanded fossil fuel projects in their tracks.”

For media inquiries and interviews, contact:Antony Balmain, +61-423-253-477, [email protected]