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Bill to make funds invest ethically

Labour Party backbencher Maryan Street wants the government’s investment companies to put greater emphasis on ethical investing.

Thursday, November 2nd 2006, 7:09AM

by Rob Hosking

Street, who is seen as something a of a high flyer in the Labour Party, has put up a private members bill requiring the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, the Government Superannuation Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation to take ethical criteria into account when setting their investment strategies.

Street says the three financial institutions should "be governed by ethics which promote social responsibility and environmentally sustainable economic investment, they must take internationally agreed norms and conventions into account, and...they must do nothing prejudicial to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world c community."

Only the last of those is currently a requirement of the three financial institutions.

Street’s bill has been welcomed by the New Zealand Medical Association, as well as several public health groups.

Last year the Accident Compensation Corporation decided not to invest in tobacco companies any longer.

"We can’t be promoting healthy and active lifestyles across a raft of portfolios such as heath, sport and education. And be investing funds in tobacco companies," says Street.

"Similarly, we can’t be working hard to address climate change and on the other hand be investing in companies which are key contributors to the problem, unless we are actively seeking to change their activities through engagement."

Last year the New Zealand Superannuation Fund indicated it would be looking more closely at ethical investments, with a view to engage rather than withdraw funds, and hired a specialist to champion those strategies within the organisation.

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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