As CEO of industry super fund HESTA, Debby leads an organisation passionate about making a real difference to the financial future of every member while supporting a healthier planet and society.
Read more of HESTA's story here.
What is HESTA?
We are an industry profit-to-member superannuation fund dedicated to the health and community services sector in Australia. We have $60b invested globally on behalf of more than 880,000 members – 80% of whom are women.
Why is HESTA taking climate action?
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and is likely to have implications for current and future generations if not addressed. As custodians of our members’ retirement savings, we take our responsibility seriously, so we consider the risk and opportunities from climate change in our investment decision making. Failing to do so is likely to have a negative impact on the retirement outcomes of members.
HESTA has an important role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. We think there are important investment opportunities we can make that will deliver long-term value for HESTA members.
How is HESTA taking climate action?
It’s important we understand the climate related risks across our investment portfolio, whether it’s through high emitting companies or assets like toll roads and seaports that may be impacted by changing weather patterns brought on by climate change.
In 2020 we became the first major Australian super fund to commit to reducing the absolute carbon emissions across our entire investment portfolio to ‘net zero’ by 2050, with a 33% reduction by 2030, as part of an ambitious Climate Change Transition Plan. We were also the first major Australian super fund to place thermal coal restrictions across the portfolio, in 2014.
To mitigate climate change risk, we need to achieve change in the real economy. Direct engagement in collaboration with other asset owners to amplify our voice is a strong focus for HESTA. We prefer open dialogue with high emitters and other industries dependent on fossil fuels to encourage them to adjust their business models to be viable in a low carbon economy. We use our influence to drive companies to better understand, manage and reduce their carbon emissions.
Is there a project HESTA is currently delivering that you are excited about?
Absolutely - our Climate Change Transition Plan. It’s an exciting piece of work that will protect and enhance the long-term performance of our members’ investments, while driving meaningful change and contributing to a healthier planet and society.
What real-world opportunities have you uncovered from taking climate action?
As a large, globally diversified, long-term investor, we endorse the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a way of delivering a healthy economy, environment and society. HESTA has prioritised SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy and SDG 13: Climate action as areas where we believe we can meaningfully contribute to the challenges outlined by the SDGs.
In the wake of COVID-19, we have a unique opportunity for a green-led recovery, consistent with Paris Agreement goals. HESTA has a substantial investment in renewable energy and climate solutions and continues to seek opportunities for further investment in innovative low carbon technology and infrastructure that will positively contribute towards the transition.
What action would you like to see Australia take on climate?
Australia has an opportunity to attract global investment and almost $3 trillion in super savings to power a green-led recovery from COVID-19.
We know we can’t achieve progress alone – we need long-term commitment from political and business leaders, other large investors and the broader community.
Governments around the world are already attracting green capital through setting stable, long-term policy. For example, New Zealand has set a ‘net zero by 2050’ target and established a Climate Change Commission to track progress transparently.
Australia needs a national bipartisan commitment to ‘net zero emissions by 2050’ and a clear roadmap for how we’re going to get there. HESTA has called on the Australian Government to:
- Commit to ‘net zero emissions by 2050’ national target;
- Recognise a limited role for gas in the transition;
- Remove barriers to long-term investment; and
- Enable innovative investment partnerships and structures to boost clean tech investment.