Leading NGO Oxfam has called on banks to reveal their investments in the same way that some asset managers do.
The plea comes in the context of a new briefing paper looking at how Australia’s ‘big four’ banks (ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, NAB and Westpac) banks can better respond to “land grabs”.
“Communities find it nearly impossible to know who is financing agriculture and timber operations that have far-reaching impacts on their day-to-day lives,” Oxfam Australia says in a 24-page report aiming to provide a roadmap for the Australian financial sector.
“After months of hearing bank concerns about disclosure, Oxfam was surprised to learn that there is already an
industry tool available for greater transparency for asset management activities,” it goes on.
It refers to fund firms’ proxy voting records and engagement reports, saying: “In effect, this is a list of the companies in which a fund is invested above a certain threshold.”
Oxfam notes how a variety of financial companies inAustralia — including superannuation funds and some banks — publish this information for both Australian and overseas listed companies, including CBA subsidiary Colonial First State Global Asset Management (CFSGAM).
CFSGAM has a public commitment to comprehensive proxy voting disclosure, Oxfam notes, adding that Westpac’s BT Investment Management arm publishes proxy voting records for Australian-listed companies but not those listed overseas.
“So why aren’t all the big four banks adopting this standard?” it asks.
Oxfam Australia – whose board includes former Australian Council of Superannuation Investors’ CEO Ann Byrne – is calling for Australian banks to publish an annual list of holdings in which their funds have a significant stake and “making this available via a searchable database”.
Oxfam says the industry’s adoption of social and environmental impact assessments (SEIAs) is a step in the right direction – though their “lack of transparency” undermines their accuracy and efficacy. Link