Get your shit together and start divesting now

Get your shit together and start divesting now

Are you actively supporting and encouraging animal cruelty, gambling, armaments, tobacco, unethical work conditions, and everything else that goes with climate change – like fossil fuel energy ?   Unless you’re a Monsanto Exec torturing bunnies, collecting Hummers, hunting illegal migrants with your uzis as a hobby and laughing at polar bears dying on melting ice cubes, there is little chance you’d answer YES to this question. Unfortunately, you probably are – without even knowing it.

When you realise your savings and investments are benefiting organisations you would frankly boycott in your daily life, this is when you start thinking about divestment as a natural, logical thing to do. It’s difficult to act on something we’re ignorant of. But once we know, what could hold us back and how overcome it ? I don’t have the answer to these questions. But I can share how easy it was to do my first baby step toward divestment, by choosing a fossil fuel free and ethical Super Fund.

{”Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.” –}

Getting out of our comfort zone is hard. When I had to get my savings from France to Australia I was given the opportunity of doing it using cryptocurrency and even though it was a bit of a hassle to set things up and make it work, it would have meant a little personal victory upon the financial institutions I despise so much.  But for the sake of convenience and because in the end the transaction cost would have been be the same, I did it the old fashion way. Comfort zone. Damn it.  And then yesterday I received an email from my fossil fuel free superannuation fund FutureSuper, saying:


I thought it was great. Then I thought: 2000 members??? This is despairingly low. Australians, I know you’re not made of Monsanto Execs bunnies torturer pimp driving hummers blowing cigar’s smoke in new born’s faces. We collectively have about $2 trillion in our super funds, we could do heaps of of goodness with that amount. So here’s a simple guide on how to divest if you live in Australia right now, that I hope will help you – my partner and more people – to make this first simple (so simple!) step towards a better, kinder world.

Don’t forget the rule #1 : It’s easier to not invest in oil and cruelty than divest from it. If you’re broke, ready your take the first job as a young professional, or don’t have any Super Fund or massive amount of money anywhere in banks with automated transfers and direct debits set up, you have the amazing opportunity of setting up your finance right without any hassle. It’s only a matter of choosing the right institutions.

1. Choose your new fossil fuel free and ethical Super Fund.

The good news is: ethical / fossil fuel Super funds are performing extremely well, as well as your dirty one and even better, as you can see in the latest report from The Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA). RIAA publish a benchmarking report each year which shows that ethical and responsible investment funds consistently match or better the performance of mainstream super funds over all time periods. The RIAA 2013 benchmarking report shows that responsible investment funds have produced better returns than the average fund over the last 10 years. I am not going to elaborate more on that as fund performance is not the main focus here – I just wanted to make sure we’ve debunked the low performance of ethical/fossil fuel funds myth before going further.



SOURCE: Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, 2013 Benchmarking Report, returns to 30 June 2013

After having doing a fair bit of research and asked advice from people who knew better than I do, I ended up hesitating between Future Super and Australian Ethical. These are the only ones I found who are 100% transparent on where they invest, and I finally chose Future Super because their choices matched my ethics better. In the end, I found the most important in my decision making process was: trust in the organisation (I asked competent people and sought existing member’s feedback), transparency of the investments, financial returns being the less important criteria the list. I was nonetheless very happy to find out returns for ethical and fossil fuel free funds are better than average funds.

Future Super

I found that Future Super is harsher on its screening policy, but did not have much history since they’ve started last year. Still, I found them trustworthy and after 6 months of membership I have no complaints whatsoever. The enrolling was super easy, and apparently it has better yield than non fossil fuel free Super funds.

Future Super exhaustive list of investments

Returns since inception 1 September 2014 to 28 February 2015:

Future Super 9.84%
S&P ASX200 6.9%
Morningstar Multisector Balanced 9.6%

Australian Ethical

Australian Ethical has been around since 1986 and is a well established institution. Read more about Australian Ethical screening policy .

Australian Ethical exhaustive list of investments

Australian Ethical Flagship fund 10 year per annum returns to 31 July 2014:

2. Transfer your Super Funds to an ethical, fossil fuel free Super Fund – it’s super easy – for real.

Whether you chose one or the other, both Future Super and Australian Ethical will help you move from your dirty fund to theirs seamlessly. You don’t even need to contact your old super fund as they’ll take care of the process without you having to lift your finger. If you can’t remember what other funds that you have they will also find them for you. First of all you’ll need to enrol as a member (that’s easy and free of charge) with one or the other. I found that Future Super nailed it on how to make it super easy, check out their FAQ page, follow the prompts and you’ll be set up within minutes. I have not been through the process with Australian Ethical, but it seems quite similar.

Notify your employer of your new super fund is also super easy.

Same here, really, just need to fill a form and pass it on whoever is taking care of that in your company. Your employer will need to register with the fund – super simple with Future Super, everything can be done online. When you start a new job and they ask you if you want your own Super or go with theirs, just fill the Standard Choice form your employer must provide you along the rest of all your paperwork, and fill it in with your membership details. A compliance certificate is also needed, but again super easy with Future Super as employers  and members can find every resources they need on their website. I did not pull my hair out, bite my nails, or face palm anytime during this process, and I wish you the same delightful experience. Et voilà, no more starving polar bears dying in your dreams.

3. Now that we have our ethical and fossil fuel free Super Fund up and running – we need to switch Bank….

I know what you’re gonna say. THIS IS GONNA BE SUCH A PAIN.

No. It does not have to be, really. This is the magic of switching from one financial institution to another, the new one will always do whatever they can to make it easy for you.  New customers are a bit like gluten & dairy free vegan paleo French pastries, so hard and expensive to acquire.

We’re lucky in Australia to have a bank that is 100% fossil fuel free – and that Bank is Bendigo. I don’t know what are the other options out there yet, but Bendigo seems like a standard bank with decent coverage in Australian’s cities.  I have not switched to Bendigo yet and thus not the best person to give some feedback. But they are the only fossil fuel free bank I could find here so that’ll be my next divestment move. If you already did the switch and want to tell us how it went and how happy/unhappy you feel, please tell us in the comments below or get in touch and I’ll publish your story just right here!

Or if you want to go ahead and just do it, check out how to switch easily with Bendigo here.

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