12 April 2022
Finally, after years of delay, super funds now have to disclose all their investments. The recent release of this information reveals all of the big super funds are investing members’ money in two of Australia’s most climate-destructive companies, gas giants Woodside and Santos.
We have analysed the investment holdings of the default (or largest) investment options of Australia’s biggest super funds, and discovered exactly how much of members’ money these funds are investing in Australia’s two largest oil and gas companies. Despite many of these super funds claiming to support the goals of the Paris Agreement and net zero emissions by 2050, all are still invested in these two climate wrecking-companies, both of which have oil and gas expansions plans that are incompatible with the climate goals super funds claim to support.
Some super funds that position themselves as climate leaders are more exposed to Woodside and/or Santos than the industry average. HESTA, for example, had the highest investment exposure to Woodside (in its ‘Balanced Growth’ investment option) in our study. We also found that Santos now shows up in the top 25 Australian shareholdings of UniSuper’s ‘Balanced’ investment option, despite the fund publicly announcing it had significantly sold down investments in gas companies last year. What’s worse, most of these funds have also voted against calls for real climate action at Woodside and Santos last year.
The good news is super funds will soon have crucial opportunities to bring these companies into line. Market Forces has supported shareholders to lodge proposals at Woodside and Santos, calling on these companies to disclose how they will wind up oil and gas production in line with a net zero emissions by 2050 pathway. Super funds could significantly influence the outcome of the votes on these proposals at these companies’ annual general meetings (AGMs) in May, and pressure from members like you can ensure these super funds use your retirement savings to vote in favour of a safe climate.
Tell your super fund to stop investing in Woodside and Santos and their climate-wrecking expansion plans.
Investment exposure to Woodside and Santos and proxy voting behaviour of Australia’s biggest super funds by assets under management
|wdt_ID||Fund||Investment Option Profiled||Woodside investment exposure (% of Australian equities)||Santos investment exposure (% of Australian equities)||Voted against Woodside wind up resolution in 2021?||Voted against Santos wind up resolution in 2021?|
|2||Commonwealth Super Corp||PSS Default||0.90||0.92||Not disclosed||Not disclosed|
|3||Australian Retirement Trust (formed after the merger between QSuper and Sunsuper)||Balanced Pool||1.11||0.98||Split*||Against*|
|4||Aware Super||High Growth||0.72||1.16||Abstain||Abstain|
|5||AMP||MySuper 1970's||1.39||1.32||Not disclosed||Not disclosed|
|6||MLC (owned by IOOF)||MySuper Growth||1.00||1.54||Against||Against|
|7||BT Financial Group||BT Panorama||0.81||0.45||Against||Against|
|9||Colonial First State||FirstChoice Wholesale Growth||0.80||2.14||Split||Against|
Holdings information as at 31 December 2021.
*Proxy voting information pertaining to Australian Retirement Trust reflects the combined voting behaviour of QSuper and Sunsuper, prior to the merger. QSuper voted against, and Sunsuper voted for, the Woodside ‘Capital Protection’ resolution in 2021, and both funds voted against the Santos ‘Capital Protection’ resolution in 2021.
We have calculated and presented these funds’ investments in Woodside and Santos as a proportion of each fund’s total allocation to Australian listed equities (shares listed on the Australian stock market), as this allows for direct comparison between funds. Other data points, such as investment exposure as a proportion of the total fund, or dollar value of investments in these companies are incomparable because funds have different allocations to Australian listed equities and different amounts of money in the investment pool.
The scope of our analysis covers Australia’s largest 32 super funds by assets under management, according to APRA’s June 2021 fund-level superannuation statistics, Table 1 and Table 2. Where mergers between super funds have occurred since June 2021, the single merged entity is listed on the table (noting the previous fund name/s) and occupies only one position on the table, unless the merged funds remain as standalone brands with standalone policies. We identified:
- Each fund’s investment exposure to Woodside Petroleum and Santos, as a proportion of its total allocation to Australian equities in its default (or largest, by AUM) investment option as at 31 December 2021, and;
- How each fund voted on Market Forces-coordinated ‘Capital Protection’ shareholder proposals at the annual general meetings (AGMs) of Woodside and Santos in 2021.
Where a fund’s total allocation to Australian equities for 31 December 2021 was not disclosed or not apparent from its holdings disclosures, the option’s disclosed strategic asset allocation (or the most recent actual asset allocation, if available) was used to calculate the fund’s exposure to Woodside and Santos, as a proportion of Australian listed equities.
The information in the above table pertains to 24 of Australia’s largest 32 funds, for the following reasons:
- QSuper and Sunsuper have recently merged to form Australian Retirement Trust;
- HUB24 and Netwealth do not have investment options comparable to the rest of those captured in the study;
- CommBank Group Super and Macquarie do not disclose total or strategic allocation to Australian equities, nor is this information apparent from its holdings disclosure. We therefore did not have enough information to analyse these funds’ investments in Woodside and Santos as a proportion of Australian listed equities, and;
- IOOF, OnePath and StateWide are yet to disclose their full list of investment holdings.
Where a fund’s proxy voting disclosure reads ‘Split,’ this means that the fund has voted some of its shares in different ways on the relevant proposal, for example some shares for and some against, or some abstaining and some against. In the case of QSuper and Sunsuper, both funds voted differently on the Woodside ‘Capital Protection’ resolution prior to the merger (QSuper voted against, Sunsuper voted for).
Portfolio holdings disclosures for all funds are as at 31 December 2021, and were sourced from each fund’s website (see below). Proxy voting information was sourced from Proxy Insight (a subscription service), or from each fund’s own proxy voting disclosure. Each fund’s total allocation to Australian equities was calculated from portfolio holdings disclosure unless noted below.
Portfolio holdings disclosures and asset allocations
- Active Super
- Australian Retirement Trust
- Aware Super
- BT Financial Group
- CareSuper (strategic asset allocation to Australian equities: 22%)
- Catholic Super
- Cbus (total asset allocation to Australian equities at 31 January 2022: 22.53%)
- Colonial First State (total asset allocation to Australian equities at December 2021: 25.5%)
- CommBank Group Super
- Commonwealth Super Corp
- Equipsuper (strategic asset allocation to Australian equities: 24%)
- Mercer (total asset allocation to Australian equities at December 2021: 36%)
- Mine Super
- NGS Super
- Spirit Super
- Telstra Super (strategic asset allocation to Australian equities: 22%)
- Vision Super