How one of Australia’s biggest industry pension funds thinks about sustainable finance.
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RI has partnered with the Committee on Workers Capital (CWC) to publish a series of CWC Trustee Profile interviews with union-nominated pension fund trustees that touch on the role of individual board members in driving innovation around responsible investment at their funds.
Roslyn McLennan was appointed to the Sunsuper board in 2015 as a member representative on behalf of the Queensland Council of Unions. She is also a member of the fund’s Investment Committee, Remuneration, Nomination and Governance Committee, Successor Funds Transfer Committee, and Claims Committee.
Sunsuper is one of Australia‘s biggest industry pension funds with more than one million members and – as of January 2018 – A$50bn ($39bn) in assets under management. Sunsuper – and other Australian industry super funds – are ‘profit for member’ entities which serve members in maximising their retirement savings. Employers may choose Sunsuper as a default fund for contributions they make to employee retirement savings. Individuals, regardless of employment situation or affiliation, may also choose Sunsuper as their fund.
The Sunsuper board is made up of equal numbers of member and employer representatives as well as three independent directors.
Board decisions are implemented by a staff team of more than 750. As of January 2018, 30 percent of Sunsuper’s investment funds were ‘unlisted assets’ managed internally; the remainder of assets are managed by external asset managers. The fund invests in public and private equity, real estate, infrastructure, fixed income, and hedge funds.
The purpose of Sunsuper is to “inspire and empower Australians to fulfil their retirement dreams.”
1. Why were you interested in becoming a pension trustee?
Roslyn McLennan: I’ve been a union official for 25 years and have devoted my entire working life to helping members build power in their workplaces and industries. I’m dedicated to building outcomes in terms of wage increases and conditions, measures to support work/life balance, and collective agreements for increases in superannuation.
The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) appoints the two most senior full time officers to the role of board members on Sunsuper. When I was elected as General Secretary of the QCU, working on the board of an industry superannuation fund seemed like a natural extension of representing members in their search for dignity after work.
I’m also a strong feminist and we have an extraordinary gap in retirement savings between men and women in Australia. We must work to ensure greater equity between women and men when it comes to living out their retirement years with dignity and justice.
2. How are the values of the beneficiaries that you represent reflected in the fund’s board policies? How has this changed over time?
Our members’ values align very closely with Sunsuper’s values. Whether members work in teaching or manufacturing, there’s solidarity around the idea that they don’t want their retirement savings to contribute to climate change or child and slave labour. These values make their way into board policies like the “Social License to Invest,” which applies across the portfolio.
When I joined the board, I expressed my surprise that the only things that were excluded from the investment universe were munitions and tobacco. I suggested that if we were to walk in the street and speak to a Sunsuper member, we would find that it was not acceptable to be investing in companies that resort to child and slave labour for example.
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