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Articles
11 December 2019

Why authenticity matters

Australian Ethical reveal how they are guided by wisdom, empathy, authenticity and action, to play their part in tackling climate change. 

Written by Allyson Lowbridge

This story originally ran in issue #61 of Dumbo Feather

This article is sponsored by our partners at Australian Ethical

What does this mean?

Authenticity and action are two of our core values at Australian Ethical. Every day we invest to bring about a more sustainable and renewable future, so joining our members on the streets to protest government inaction on climate change made perfect sense.

We’ve been in awe of Greta Thunberg since she began her solitary protest outside the Swedish parliament just over a year ago. The 16-year-old started a worldwide movement that has motivated millions of schoolchildren —and now adults alongside them—to demand action on climate change. And while Greta has certainly inspired us, we recognise she didn’t start her protest to fill adults with pride and hope about the next generation. “I don’t want your hope, I want you to panic,” she says.

Greta is right. We should be panicking. Because the IPCC takes a consensus approach, its reports tend to underestimate the extent of the crisis. What’s more, the IPCC does not take into account “feedback loops” such as the release of methane due to melting Arctic permafrost or the drying (and increased burning) of rainforests. The reality is that some of the consequences of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions may now be unavoidable. If we continue with business as usual we’re on track for at least two degrees of warming, which will mean the complete loss of the Great Barrier Reef. Warming of three or four degrees doesn’t even bear thinking about.

While it’s important to acknowledge the reality of the situation, it shouldn’t deter us from doing everything in our power to reduce the extent of climate change. And that’s exactly what we do by directing money into investments like renewable energy or technology that will help create a more sustainable future. Our Ethical Charter, which has been unchanged since 1986 and guides everything we do, requires us to avoid investments that pollute land, air or water. On the positive side, it requires us to seek out companies that reduce wasteful or polluting practices and preserve endangered eco-systems. This has a real impact: the carbon footprint of our portfolio is about a third of the benchmark, and our investment in renewables is proportionately six times that of the global share market.

As a business we have four core values: wisdom, empathy, authentity and action. While the first two help us interpret and implement our Ethical Charter, it’s the second two that got us out in the streets this September. We were proud to join over 3000 other companies across Australia, New Zealand and the globe in the “This is not business as usual” campaign, which showed the power of collective action.

Our experience at the climate strike

At 10am on 20 September many of the staff at Australian Ethical’s Sydney office downed tools to start making cardboard signs. Some staff even brought their children along, and a standout sign was four-year-old Frankie’s simple yet compelling message: “I like smelling flowers.” Other signs referenced Mother Earth, the scientific consensus and The Simpsons. We were thrilled to join 80,000 other strikers in the Sydney’s Domain on a beautiful spring day, followed by a march through the streets to Hyde Park.

Some of our staff shared their experiences on the day and why they felt it was important to take part. Bethany Noble, our Social Media and Community Manager, said it wasn’t just about the day, which she described as inspiring and hopeful, but also the general feeling that more people and businesses are starting to take climate change seriously.

“It felt like a tipping point. And when you gather 80,000 people all standing up for one issue together, you can’t be ignored,” said Beth.

Chris Morrison, our Customer Engagement Manager, said he took part because there is power in numbers.

“A large show of support for the strike is a powerful message to world leaders that they need to take climate change seriously. I also think it shows support for younger generations as they try and fight against the fossil fuel age and the impacts this will have on their future.”

One of our members who joined us on the day, Stephen Simmonds, said he couldn’t sit by and watch the next generation take a stand without taking action himself. He added that he had been a member of Australian Ethical for over 20 years because he wants his super to be invested in a way that aligns with his values.

“With Australian Ethical I can just relax and let them do the heavy lifting in terms of what values to apply to my hard-earned capital,” Stephen said.

Another member who joined us on the day, Stephen Walter, said he hoped even more people would join future protests.

“The children are saying they’re doing this because there’s an emergency,” he said, adding that switching his super last year helped send a message to Australia’s leaders.

Other ways we take action

We’re no strangers to standing up for what we believe in. As well as directing capital to positive sectors of the economy, we also use our shareholder voice to advocate for change within companies we believe can do better.

As a company we do not participate in the Melbourne Cup because of the animal cruelty, gambling and excess alcohol consumption it embodies. But that doesn’t mean we’re killjoys! This year we’ll be hosting a “Nup to the Cup” event where we will watch the Canine Cup, otherwise known as The Race That Makes The Nation Paws— a cruelty free and not-completely-serious dog race held in Adelaide each year.

We also joined the Kids Off Nauru campaign to end the Australian government’s offshore detention of children. Our Head of Ethics Research Dr Stuart Palmer travelled to a rally in Canberra where he told the rally: “We support Kids Off Nauru because destroying people’s hope is cruel, whether they’re children or adults. It causes them great harm and there’s no good reason for it.”

We will continue to take action to support causes our members tell us they are passionate about. Climate change is the number one issue for our members, but we will also focus on other issues that harm the planet, people and animals.

Allyson Lowbridge

Allyson Lowbridge is the Chief Customer Officer at Australian Ethical Investment.

Supplied by Australian Ethical

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