2019 Investor Briefing with guest speaker, Tim Costello AO

A bumper crowd of 160 squeezed in to the Sheraton Hotel for our annual Investor Briefing.

01 November 2019.

A bumper crowd of 160 squeezed in to the Sheraton Hotel for our annual Investor Briefing on Thursday 3 October to get an update on developments in the ethical investment landscape and to hear our keynote speaker, Tim Costello AO.

Chief Investment Officer, James Cook, kicked off proceedings with a reflection on our investment performance in a challenging year for markets. He drew attention to the International Equities Portfolio’s return of 17.6 per cent—well above the benchmark’s 5.4 per cent. Over the same period, the Australian Equities Portfolio returned a market-competitive 12.1 per cent while the Enhanced Cash Portfolio paid an attractive yield of 2.6 per cent.

Georgina Laird, our Ethics and Impact Manager, highlighted our adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for monitoring and evaluating the non-financial performance of our investments. She picked out the example of CISCO’s provision of health information to 5 million people which has helped reduce child mortality by 27 per cent. Our investment in Mastercard has also supported reduced inequality in Nigeria where half a million women have been provided with ID cards enabled with electronic payment functionality.

In his inimitable style, Tim Costello delivered a wide-ranging address punctuated with anecdotes of discussions about ethics he has had with world leaders. Some key insights included:

  • Markets have always been part of society but they must exist to serve society—not the other way around. Economic growth is an important mechanism for lifting people out of poverty.
  • Businesses worldwide are trying to position themselves as being ‘for purpose’ but the charity sector should reclaim the ‘for purpose’ mantle rather than defining itself by what it’s not (i.e. ’not for profit’).
  • Giving and altruism are important for their own sake. To exemplify, people are more likely to donate blood if they’re not incentivised.
  • Australia has 30 per cent of the world’s pokie machines and problem gamblers make up 40 per cent of tax receipts from gambling companies.
  • In Australia, $80,000 seems to be the income level at which personal happiness levels off.
  • In the context of Donald Trump and Scott Morrison’s matching jingoistic rhetoric, patriotism is harmless but nationalism is harmful. We will only be able to effectively address the world’s most urgent problems by involving all sectors of all communities in the solutions.

The event culminated in a Q&A session and panel discussion with an energetic discussion of topics ranging from minimum wages to animal welfare to the climate crisis.

Attendees also received copies of our 2019 sustainability report. We aim to reduce our environmental footprint by minimising printing, however, if you would like a printed copy please get in touch.

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UE Approve


01 November 2019