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Auckland (8 June 2007) - The Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation today were the focus of a petition from the Green Party. The petition called on the Government to inquire into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund's investment activities. 

In acknowledging the petition, the Guardians' Chief Executive Officer, Mr Adrian Orr, said: "The Guardians are fully transparent with our responsible investment policy and the investments that our many managers hold on our behalf. There is no secret in what we do, we are applying considerable effort, and we are showing leadership.

The Guardians are required to operate in a manner consistent with best-practice portfolio management and avoid prejudice to New Zealand's reputation as a responsible member of the world community. We have carried out considerable research into the practices of similar investment funds and believe our responsible investment standards and practices satisfy both those criteria.

We take responsible share ownership very seriously and have shown leadership by adopting global standards and practices, and remaining up to date with ongoing practices.  

In applying our standards, the Guardians have made decisions to exclude some investments, and divest in some circumstances. We are also increasingly engaging with companies, usually in concert with other international investors, as we believe this has the best chance of influencing corporate behaviour. The Guardians are actively considering several issues at present with a view to making sound decisions on investments.

Responsible investment is a complex issue and is constantly evolving. As such, the Guardians continuously review their policies and issues.

For example, on the issue of its policy on components of nuclear weapons manufacturing, which the Guardians are currently considering, there are complex legal and operational issues. Some companies may only be involved at the periphery, with the vast majority of their production purchased on a day-to-day basis by consumers, businesses, and governments worldwide. It is important that we work through in detail the consequences of introducing a new policy before we adopt it - as we are currently doing. 

A changed policy may, for example, mean that we ask all our international investment managers to exclude shares in some major companies. We need to consider whether that is appropriate if many commercial and/or state owned entities throughout the world trade with these companies in a friendly manner. A poorly considered decision by the Guardians could, in the extreme, adversely affect New Zealand's reputation internationally and be inconsistent with best-practice portfolio management.

In assessing responsible investment issues, the Guardians consider the nature of involvement by the company, the regulatory environment - including international conventions and New Zealand law - the effectiveness of shareholder actions, and the impact on the Fund's portfolio.   We are also aware that firms operate in different legal, cultural, and geographical contexts. The Guardians endeavour to understand individual circumstances if breaches of standards occur. 

We continue to work on these issues, we take them seriously, and we will remain transparent in our decisions. In doing so, we are also working with other Crown Financial entities."

-Ends-

For more information, please contact: Karine Fox, Head of Communications, New Zealand Superannuation Fund, +64 9 373 8963, [email protected].

 

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