Pressure forces Medibank to consider divestment

10 November 2016

Shareholders and health professionals flooded Medibank with question about their fossil fuel investments and preparedness for climate change at their annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday in Melbourne, prompting the Chairwoman to commit to considering divesting the company from coal, oil and gas.

Medibank understands the importance of divestment from unhealthy industries as they have already divested from tobacco and “controversial” weapons. However, when asked by a customer in an email exchange last month why this divestment didn’t extend to coal, oil and gas, Medibank replied that they have not decided to divest from fossil fuels becausefor now – the only change we’re making is the tobacco one because of its direct and proven linkage to health outcomes.

A major health insurer ignoring the proven links between pollution caused by burning fossil fuels and increased diseases and health costs is very worrying for both their shareholders and their customers. This concern was reinforced at the AGM.

Medibank needs to get up to date with the latest research. In Australia alone it is estimated that the adverse impacts from pollutants produced from coal-fired electricity generation costs $2.6 billion annually. And that’s not including the impacts of pollution from oil-powered vehicles, coal mining or coal seam gas extraction. Medibank is also ignoring the adverse health impacts caused by global warming – what the world’s foremost medical journal The Lancet called “the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century“.

It was this evidence that was presented to the Medibank Board at their AGM.

Watch the response of the board when doctor Harry Jennens poses the idea of fossil fuel divestment due to the health impacts:

Director Peter Hodgett’s implications that there are doubts as to the need to shift to renewable energy as soon as possible, for both health and climate reasons, shows a lack of depth of thinking on this issue at Medibank. The World Medical Association recently released a statement asking businesses to divest from fossil fuels to help prevent disastrous health impacts.

Another shareholder expressed concerns about the global impact climate change would have, and how that would affect premiums and share prices. Her question prompted a meeting after the AGM as the CEO admitted that Medibank has not considered this issue.

A shareholder concerned about stranded fossil fuel assets reducing the value of Medibank’s investments asked why the company didn’t divest from fossil fuels now, before large amounts of money was lost. Watch how the company finally takes these requests on board: 

Take Action

If you are a customer or shareholder with Medibank and are worried about how Medibank is contributing to climate change, you can take action now. Write to them and let them know you want them to publicly divest from fossil fuels.

Fill out their ‘feedback and complaint’ form by visiting http://www.medibank.com.au/About-Us/Contact-Us/Feedback-and-Complaints.aspx