NEW ZEALAND - The NZ$11.9bn (US$8.1bn) New Zealand Superannuation Fund has defended its position as a responsible investor despite criticism over its investment in nuclear weapons manufacturers.
Green Party co-leader and economics’ spokesperson Russel Norman said the fund, a founding member of the UN Principles of Responsible Investment and the Ethical Investment Association, was also invested in firms involved with cluster bomb manufacturing; environmental destruction; and labour and human rights violations.
Norman compared the ethical investment choices of the NZ Super Fund and the Norway Pension Fund, and claimed NZ Super had invested millions in businesses the Norway fund would not touch on ethical grounds.
“When we criticise the ethical investment choices of the NZ Super Fund, we are told they do it to make a good return. But the much larger Norway Pension Fund can make a high return on their investments while excluding nuclear bomb manufacturers, so why is the management of the NZ Super Fund unable to do the same?”
David May, chairman of the Board of the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation, said the fund had taken a number of steps to lead the way in terms of responsible investment, and said its policies and practices on responsible investment compared well with its international peers.
“The fund has divested from companies involved in land-mine manufacture and in the production of whale meat.”
May added NZ Super had over 3000 holdings in its portfolio which were selected by external managers.
"The fund takes an active stance in ensuring its investment mandate is respected and has a framework for screening companies against the UN Global Compact. The fund has started to engage with companies identified as having poor practices and aims to work with other investors under the auspices of the UN PRI. The Fund believes this kind of engagement has the best chance of influencing corporate behaviour."
“Some of these issues are very complex. For example, the fund has been criticised for holding shares in Boeing. Boeing is the most common manufacturer of aircraft in the world, and a key supplier to many governments and airlines, yet produces some military components.
We are committed to maintaining and refining a workable framework for managing reputational issues within these operational realities. These are issues which are under review and will be addressed by the board.