Melbourne sustainability summit - 21 November

Welcome and introductions 

By Tim Hodgson

The ‘slow but unstoppable’ sustainability train has now left the station, and is picking up speed. The agenda for the investment industry has therefore moved on. We now need to differentiate between the real activity and the greenwashing (ESG) and rainbow washing (SDGs). We need to work out whether our role is to spectate, or shape the shifting sustainability landscape. Most fundamentally, we need to work out where to place ourselves on the spectrum of action – the spectrum that runs from business-as-usual to a war-footing to face existential threats. While we are likely to agree on the broad shape of the sustainability landscape, we are unlikely to agree on the degree of action required.

We have designed this seminar to (start to) explore these questions. It is not possible to explore the complete breadth of sustainability in a single day, and so we start with a foundation of beliefs. We then highlight two topics, drawn from our list of the two things that matter – climate change and inequality. We complete the seminar with a practical discussion on what, if anything, all of this implies for our portfolios.

 

Sustainability beliefs 

by Roger Urwin

A TAI working group created a set of 36 questions in 2016, which allow individuals and organisations to explore their sustainability beliefs. Over the last couple of years 45 investment organisations around the world have asked groups of their employees to take the survey. We now have a unique database containing the beliefs of these investment professionals regarding multiple aspects of sustainability. 

This session will explore where asset owners and asset managers are positioned on sustainability. Through discussion we will consider where we need to go from here?

 

Spotlight topic 1 – climate change 

by Professor David Karoly

Extreme weather events will get worse over the next 10 years. The lagged response of the climate system means it is already built in to our future. Even though the economic costs are likely to be material, that is not the issue. The issue is what we do over the next 10 years to impact the climate system from 2030 onwards. 

We prime the discussion with expert guidance, and then collectively explore what the investment industry and our individual organisations should do differently.

 

Spotlight topic 2 – corporate stewardship in pursuit of the SDGs

by Roger Urwin

Inequality itself is a difficult subject – it is political, moral, values-laden and subjective. We therefore frame this session as an exploration of how our stewardship of investee companies might, or should, change. 

The fact that the UN is able to articulate 17 goals (SDGs) suggests that the world’s economic system is not working properly. It could even be broken – see climate change above. Here, again, is our wide spectrum of action. Do we pursue tweaks to business-as-usual, or declare war on a system that is fundamentally broken?

 

Practitioner panel 

Mary Delahunty, Head of Impact, HESTA
Allison Hill, Director of Investments, QIC
Liza McDonald, Head of Responsible Investments, First State Super

We will invite a number of practitioners to share their opinions on how the issues explored during the day can, or should, be addressed in portfolio construction.