NIB leaves its fossil fuel divestment half-done

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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 NIB back in 2017, it remains exposed to some of the most polluting companies listed on the Australian stock exchange. NIB has gone from a leader to a laggard in this space, with key competitor Medibank pledging to be fossil fuel free by the end of this financial year.

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

NIB shifted its international share portfolio into low-carbon investment products in March 2016.

NIB’s chairman, at its 2017 annual general meeting (AGM), explained that it was “not appropriate to be invested in those [fossil fuel] companies”.

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

Yet so far, NIB has failed to deliver on this commitment.

Market Forces is calling on NIB to set a fixed date by which its 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 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.