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The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has joined a global initiative encouraging better corporate practices, despite holding shares in companies deemed “ethically compromised” by the Green Party.
The Super Fund has announced its commitment to a movement which urges listed companies to embrace international standards on human rights, working conditions, the environment and anti-corruption.
The initiative, launched Monday in London by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, is made up of 52 significant investment funds worth a total of $4 trillion in assets. They plan to write to 8900 listed companies to seek their signatures on the United Nations Global Compact for universally accepted business practices.
Green Party co-leader Russell Norman said the Super Fund’s move was a noble gesture, but it glossed over its holdings in companies which contradict the principles of the initiative.
“It is great they are making a commitment to global efforts for change, but you have to make sure your own house is in order first,” he said.
Dr Norman pointed to the Super Fund’s shares in BAE, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and United Technologies, which were all involved in developing or producing components for nuclear weapons.
“They have invested in nuclear weapons, which are by nature, the most unethical devices on the planet.”
He said that these companies were excluded from The Norwegian Pension Fund, which shared the same set of United Nations ethical investment guidelines as the NZ Super Fund. The Super Fund held, in total, $41.9m in businesses which manufactured nuclear weapons.
The Green Party also criticised the Super Fund’s shares in Rio Tinto, which was responsible for serious environmental damage, Walmart, which they said was in violation of labour rights, and weapons manufacturers whose production included cluster bombs.
Walmart made up one of the Fund’s major holdings, with an investment of $25.2 million.
Dr Norman said the government had failed to follow up on their public promise to withdraw shares from cluster bomb manufacturers. Cluster bombs are weapons that, through their normal use, violate fundamental humanitarian principles.
He estimated that The Super Fund had $100m in shares invested in companies which the Norwegian Pension Fund excluded on ethical grounds.