Australia’s Sustainable Finance Initiative names 130 members to five working groups

New private sector initiative aims to develop sustainable roadmap

Australia’s Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI) has named 130 members to its five working groups, as it sets out to develop a sustainable roadmap for the country’s financial sector over the next 18 months.

It is the latest milestone for the private sector driven initiative, which formally launched in March with the unveiling of its 18-strong steering committee.

That committee included leaders and senior executives from major banks, superannuation funds, insurance companies, financial bodies, civil society and academia.

The new working groups are drawn from similar institutions, with 80 organisations represented. It follows a call for expressions of interest in the spring.

The Coordinating Working Group, which will provide “over-arching” recommendations, includes representatives from the New South Wales Treasury, super fund Cbus and the National Australia Bank (NAB).

Colonial First State Global Asset Management’s Pablo Berrutti, who recently set up sustainable finance hub Altiorem, is also in this group. Its remit includes “short termism, valuation, taxation, accounting standards and education”.

The Climate Bonds Initiative will be an observer to the first working group, which looks at “mobilising capital to deliver on our sustainability challenges and opportunities”.

In this group are representatives from NSW Treasury Corporation, super funds HESTA, VicSuper and Cbus, and Australian financial groups ANZ, Westpac and HSBC Australia.

Australia’s prudential regulator APRA and the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) will observe the work of the second working group, charged with looking at creating a more sustainable financial system.This group includes representatives from ESG research providers MSCI ESG Research and Regnan and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), the ESG orientated association representing over A$2.2trn in assets.

Talieh Williams, former head of responsible investment at super fund UniSuper, will also be on this group.

The other working groups are:

• Technical working group three: Making better informed financial decisions by enhancing disclosures and transparency
• Technical working group four: Meeting community and consumer expectations, and putting people at the centre of finance’s purpose

The ASFI initiative, unlike its European counterparts, has no backing from government. Instead, the process has been overseen by NAB and Australian insurer IAG, with the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) acting as secretariat.

“This is another key milestone for ASFI and the fact that ASFI has been able to harness the talent and passions of over 130 individuals and commitment of 80 individual organisations
demonstrates the real desire within the finance sector to lead change that delivers greater social, environmental and economic outcomes for Australians,” said Simon O’Connor, Co-Chair of the Initiative and RIAA CEO..

“We look forward to working together on this important collaborative project over coming months with this incredibly talented and committed group of experts.”