Quit Nukes

The Case for Australian Superannuation Funds to be Nuclear Weapons Free

This report examines the policies of the largest Australian superannuation funds, highlighting their investments in companies involved in nuclear weapons development, production and maintenance (nuclear weapons companies).

In January 2021, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force, finally making nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

These weapons join chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions as undeniably controversial weapons (CW), causing massive indiscriminate civilian deaths. They are the worst of all weapons of mass destruction, able to induce climate change in an afternoon.

This report analyses superannuation funds’ website promotional statements, product disclosure statements and actual holdings to determine the extent to which Australia’s superannuation industry is financing nuclear weapons.

The findings show a wide variation. There is clearly a lack of disclosure of holdings by many funds.

A number of funds have principled website statements and considerably different policies that enable nuclear weapons investments. This may mislead prospective and existing fund members, most of whom will not read the detailed product disclosure statements (PDS).

Six Australian superannuation funds are leading the way. They are already divested from all companies that derive revenue from nuclear weapons: Active Super, Australian Ethical, Christian Super, Crescent Wealth, Future Super, and Verve Super.

At the other end of the spectrum is AustralianSuper, who have well over a billion dollars in nuclear weapons companies. IOOF also stands out as they do not currently employ a screening approach to controversial investments.

Two funds say they exclude nuclear weapons, when in reality the PDS’ fine print indicates percentage materiality considerations and thresholds that allow considerable financing.

Nine funds highlight their exclusion of controversial weapons, but do not include nuclear weapons in the definition, so continue to invest in nuclear weapons companies.

At the time of writing, one fund, Hostplus, has committed to include nuclear weapons in their definition of controversial weapons from January 2022 onwards, thereby divesting their holdings in all nuclear weapons companies.

Aware Super has committed to review their policy early in 2022 and CareSuper has divested their nuclear weapons producer holdings, noting they will actively engage with investment managers on this issue.

Five funds exclude nuclear weapons from their ‘socially or environmentally responsible’ options only.

Two funds claim to be nuclear weapons-free, but closer inspection reveals they allow producers in countries that are signed.

Full report