Call for super funds to divest gambling interests

Australian Ethical has launched a new campaign to try to prompt Australians to consider whether they like the idea of their superannuation savings funding the gambling industry.

Australian Ethical research found some of Australia's largest super funds by assets under management are investing Australians retirement savings into the gambling industry.

Australians lose more money to gambling per capita than any other country, $23 billion in recorded gambling losses every year, $14 billion of that going through the pokies.

For example, the largest super fund - the $150 billion AustralianSuper - has an exposure to gambling through its approximately $685 million holding in Woolworths, $619 million holding in Wesfarmers and $255 million holding in Coles.

An Australian Ethical video produced as part of the campaign named AMP as a super fund that "invests in building pokie machines."

While super funds holding investments in Woolworths, Coles and Wesfarmers might not be surprising, the research found many funds have a more direct exposure to gambling.

Australian Ethical found some of the biggest funds have holdings in companies like Crown and Aristocrat but chose not to name the funds.

Australian Ethical wants to see more super funds divesting from gambling companies for this reason, and has launched a new public information campaign to cast a spotlight on the negative impact gambling can have on families and communities.

"Superannuation contributions are mandatory, but every Australian has the choice to decide where this money is invested," said Stuart Palmer, Australian Ethical head of ethics research.

"Gambling is a big social issue, and Australian Ethical strongly questions why the savings of hard-working Australians are being funnelled into industries such as gambling that are responsible for the erosion of savings and general welfare."

Research conducted by the Responsible Investment Association of Australia showed that 86% of millennials and 73% of baby boomers want their super funds to invest in responsible companies and 90% of investors in general believe that fund managers should "police" corporate behaviour.

Palmer points to this as evidence there is public will for super funds to be more transparent about their investments.

"At Australian Ethical, our ethical charter restricts investment in goods or services which cause unnecessary harm to people - such as pokies. Or in companies that entice people into financial over-commitment," he said.

"However, not all super funds take the same stance and it is very difficult for people to find out where and how their super money is being invested."

Read more: Australian EthicalAustraliansColesWesfarmersWoolworthsAristocratAustralianSuperCrownInvestment Association of AustraliaStuart Palmer
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