Medibank, NIB & HCF divestment job half-done

Update 27 September 2018:

Medibank has confirmed that it will have completed its shift to low-carbon investments for their Australian share portfolio by 30 June 2019. NIB and HCF are still to set a date.

The following was received from Medibank’s CFO yesterday:

…we were pleased to achieve our commitment that we made at the 2017 AGM to transition our international equities to low carbon investments during FY18. At the 2017 AGM we committed to exploring a similar approach within our domestic equity portfolio, we are now committed to make the transition to low carbon investments for our domestic equities portfolio within 2019 financial year. (emphasis added)

24 September 2018

The world’s foremost medical journal, The Lancet, has called climate change the “biggest global health threat of the 21st Century”.

As global warming worsens, doctors, nurses and medical scientists all over the world are raising the alarm over the health impacts of crop failure, the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

So it makes perfect sense that some of Australia’s biggest private health insurers have committed (with prodding from customers, shareholders and the wider public) to dump their coal, oil and gas corporation shares – the industries most responsible for fueling global warming.

However, despite public pledges from Medibank, HCF and NIB back in 2017, all three insurers are still exposed to some of the most polluting companies listed on the Australian stock exchange. Only Medibank has given a rough estimate as to when their fossil fuel divestment will be completed.

International shares divested, action on Australian shares promised but not delivered

NIB, HCF and Medibank shifted their international share portfolios into low-carbon investment products in March 2016, March 2017 and March 2018 respectively.

Both HCF and Medibank linked their move to the negative health impacts of fossil fuels. NIB’s chairman, at its 2017 annual general meeting (AGM), explained that it was “not appropriate to be invested in those [fossil fuel] companies”.

All three companies have explicitly promised to reduce their Australian shares’ exposure to coal, oil and gas.

HCF said in a letter to a member in December 2016 that it would “prepare a strategy for our local equity investments” with regards to fossil fuels.

NIB’s chief executive, at its November 2017 AGM said NIB intended to divest their Australian share portfolio of fossil fuels.

Medibank’s chairwoman at its November 2017 AGM announcedWe are also committed to exploring a similar approach [fossil fuel divestment] within our domestic equity portfolio, and so, we will be actively encouraging fund managers to develop a suitable product for us…”

Yet so far, all three insurers have failed to deliver on these promises, although Medibank has claimed it is “on track” for finishing its fossil fuel divestment by 30 June 2019.

Market Forces is calling on HCF, Medibank and NIB to set a fixed date by which their fossil fuel divestment will be completed. With the links between climate change and negative impacts on human health now clear, any further delay by NIB, HCF and Medibank to match their stated ambitions with action will risk reputational damage and backlash from concerned customers and shareholders.

For further information see our investor briefing on this important issue..

If you’re with a health insurer you can contact them using the form below. Find out where your health insurer stands here.