Nukes with your KiwiSaver?

11th Nov. 2019

Most KiwiSaver funds promised to get out of investments in cluster munitions, landmines and nuclear weapons after a public outcry in 2016. A new investigation by Mindful Money, reveals that over $100 million of KiwiSaver funds are still invested in the production of nuclear weapons.

Mindful Money has analysed all 265 KiwiSaver funds and showed that over $100 million of KiwiSaver funds are still being invested in nuclear weapons. At least some nuclear weapons are held by 139 out of the 265 KiwiSaver funds that are publicly available.

KiwiSaver funds of the major banks feature in the list of those investing in nukes – ANZ, Kiwi Wealth, ASB and Westpac, along with AMP and OneAnswer. The highest holdings by percentage are the passive funds that invest across the whole share market, such as SuperLife.

Most New Zealanders do not expect their hard-earned savings to be spent producing more nuclear weapons. The latest survey undertaken by Colmar Brunton for Mindful Money and the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia shows that 83% of New Zealanders expect their KiwiSaver to be managed ethically – up from 72% last year.

The majority want the fund providers to avoid investments in companies that don’t match their values. And 85% want to avoid investments in weapons.

Three things should happen. Firstly, everyone with a KiwiSaver fund should check out what is in their KiwiSaver. You can easily find it at www.mindfulmoney.nz. Start typing in the fund name and you will be prompted for the name. Then you will see what weapons your fund is invested in, as well as your investments in fossil fuels, human rights violations, gambling, products tested on animals, etc.

This is the first time that this type of information has been made available to the New Zealand. Detailed research by Mindful Money has brought radical transparency to KiwiSaver. It is quick, easy and free to see what is in each fund, and to find a more Mindful fund that fits the investors’ values.

Secondly, the government should legislate. The public’s KiwiSaver funds should not be invested in nuclear weapons, cluster bombs, landmines or firearms like semi-automatic weapons. This is particularly the case, since KiwiSaver also benefits from government money in the form of the subsidy that the government provides for KiwiSaver investors. KiwiSaver funds should also be prohibited from investing in human rights violations, including slave labour, environmental destruction and fossil fuels.

There is a particular duty of care towards the public for default funds, where members of the public are not choosing a fund, but are allocated to a fund. Some of the default funds invested in nuclear weapons include Westpac, AMP, ANZ and Kiwi Wealth. Mindful Money has made a submission to require ethical standards and avoidance of weapons categories to the government’s current review of default funds.

Thirdly, the regulations should be tightened. The government’s legislation on nuclear weapons, cluster munitions and landmines is not clear enough. It could be interpreted that KiwiSaver providers are in breach of the legislation in investing in cluster munitions, but the prohibition should clearly apply to all three categories of weapons, and cover investments other than the KiwiSaver scheme.

It’s your money. Use it ethically.

Originally published on The Daily Blog, 11th November 2019.

Barry Coates is the founder and CEO of Mindful Money. He was formerly head of Oxfam New Zealand, coordinator of the campaign against the TPPA and briefly a Green Party list MP.