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Best practices for communicating on climate action

In a world where everyone seems to be talking about sustainability, it can be difficult to know how to stand out. Finding the right approach and cutting through all that noise while remaining credible is critical.

Join South Pole's communication expert, Kata Bors and Republic of Everyone's Founder, Ben Peacock, on Wednesday July 6th as they share insights into how to ensure that your work is aligned with the latest climate science and help you tell engaging stories about your impact.

Go to event 

July 06, 2022 at 2:00pm

Debby Blakey | CEO of HESTA

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.

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Join RE100 because this is a great thing to do

RE100 is a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses driving the transition to 100% renewable electricity. Led by the Climate Group and in partnership with CDP, our mission is to accelerate change towards zero carbon grids at scale. Companies in the commercial and industrial sector account for around half of the world’s end-of-use of electricity. We're switching this demand to renewable electricity.

Grace Palos | Chief Marketing Officer of Future Super

Future Super is an organisation that encourages Australians to take climate action with their super. The organisation is on a mission to show Australians the power their super has to build the foundation for a planet worth retiring to. In 2019, they diverted 62,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide alone and have moved over $658 million out of fossil fuels and into climate solutions.

Read Future Super’s inspiring story from our discussion with Grace, Future Super's Chief Marketing Officer, here.

Can you tell us a bit about Future Super? 

Future Super is a super fund that encourages people to take climate action with their super. Money is power, and at $3 trillion, the super industry has the ability to create a sustainable future without waiting on politics. We’re proving that consumers can both get better returns and create a better future for our planet through divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy.

Why is Future Super taking climate action?

The superannuation industry is a $3 trillion industry. It represents the third-largest pool of capital Australians have. If 7.7 percent of this money was put into renewable energy, our transition to clean energy would be completely funded by 2030.

We’re on a mission to show Australians the power their super has to build the foundation for a planet worth retiring into.

Can you share your commitments to climate action?

To name just a few:

  • In 2019 alone, Future Super members collectively abated and avoided just over 62,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of:
    • Taking about 27,000 cars off the road.
    • Over 35,000 people holidaying locally rather than London and back via Singapore.
    • Nearly 60,000 people deciding to eat a plant-based diet.
  • We’re also helping Australians move their super out of fossil fuels and into climate solutions. As of June 30 this year, Future Super members have moved $658,575,436 of their super dollars toward building a future worth retiring into. For perspective, that's just over Beyonce's net worth.
  • In 2019, as shareholders, we voted on behalf of the Future Super Group to advance the ethical and environmental management of companies we invest in. We voted on 29 resolutions covering topics like: improving equity for women and minorities; setting more ambitious emissions or plastic reduction targets; and increasing transparency around the influence of business lobbying on politics.
  • Our investment portfolio doesn't include BP or Rio Tinto (unlike many super funds) — and we couldn't be happier, especially following the proposed and actual destruction of Aboriginal sacred sites in the Pilbara.

Is there a project Future Super is currently working on that you are excited about?

We’re exposed to the effects of climate change in our daily lives, but most people don’t understand the link between fossil fuels and superannuation. Our daily work is to show people the impact their super investments can have on climate change and building a future that’s worth retiring into.

What real-world opportunities have you uncovered from taking climate action today?

Not Business as Usual was a campaign that we led in solidarity with the school students across the world demanding for change at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

It’s not business as usual for the world's children to skip school to get adults to pay attention to the climate crisis, nor is it business as usual for citizens to strike to get governments to make meaningful commitments to climate action.

So, in September 2019, we started an alliance of companies publicly pledging to allow their employees to protest on the 20th September without fear of retribution. More than 6,000 businesses pledged to be part of the alliance, including leading B-Corps, Atlassian, Wikipedia and Domain. More than 150,000 Aussie employees became part of the 3 million people worldwide who marched in support of climate action.

What action would you like to see Australia take on climate change?

The Australian Government currently hands out billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies to corporations. The fossil fuel industry receives some of the biggest subsidies. $12 billion went to coal, oil and gas companies last year.

Now is the time for the Australian government to start divesting from the fossil fuel industry and investing those subsidies back into its people to safeguard our communities and planet. By divesting from climate-damaging industries and investing ethically, we can create a more sustainable and prosperous planet.

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