Aware Super (formerly First State Super) is Australian industry pension fund that was established in 1992 as a profit-for-member super fund. It manages over AUD 148 billion in savings for more than 1.1 million members. Aware Super is headquartered in Sydney, New South Wales and has 1,304 employees.
In terms of its approach towards impact management, Aware Super acknowledges that its financing activities have both positive and negative impacts. It assigns the responsibility for sustainability issues within the financial institution to the board. Additionally, Aware Super has a gender-balanced board of directors where 47% of members are women. The pension fund describes its investor engagement approach on sustainability themes and impact topics, including its approach on engagement escalation. It also publishes a stewardship report providing an overview of engagement activities in 2021 and publishing case studies of successful engagement with investees.
Aware Super has set a target of net-zero financed emissions by 2050 and an interim target of 45% emission reduction from its portfolio by 2030. It discloses companies it has identified as priorities to engage with on climate change, including on the topic of aligning their business strategy with the Paris Agreement. As a member of Climate Action 100+ and Australian Council for Superannuation Investors, Aware Super discloses that it collectively engages with its clients on the topic of climate change. Furthermore, it discloses the aggregate amount of investments it devotes to renewable energy. The pension fund discloses nature- and biodiversity-related impacts as one of its engagement topics with investees.
Aware Super has a grievance mechanism accessible to all workers, external individuals and communities to raise human rights complaints or concerns. It has a publicly available policy statement which shows it is committed to respecting the health and safety of workers.
Aware Super has an opportunity to link the remuneration of its executive or management teams to sustainability performance criteria. In terms of gender equality, the pension fund also has an opportunity to reach at least 40% female representation in senior leadership positions and to disclose the ratio of basic salary and remuneration of women to men in its total direct operations workforce for each employee category. Aware Super could also publish case studies describing where it has engaged unsuccessfully with investees on sustainability themes and impact topics.
While Aware Super encourages its investees to set a 1.5°C-aligned strategy, it has an opportunity to make this a requirement. The pension fund could also align its investments in renewable energy with internationally recognised frameworks and set a time-bound target explicitly for its climate solutions. No evidence was found regarding the Aware Super’s approach to fossil fuels that spans across the fossil fuel value chain and across its assets under management, such as the amount or share of investments it directs towards fossil fuels, or its stance on investing in companies with new fossil fuel projects. The pension fund could commit to minimising the negative impacts it has on nature and biodiversity.
Aware Super has a publicly available statement committing it to respect human rights but has an opportunity to place it in a formal policy document. Further, it has an opportunity to describe a comprehensive process for identifying its human rights risks and impacts across all its activities, especially its investment activities. While the pension fund discloses the ages of its board members, it has an opportunity to disclose this information for each employee category. To provide transparency on financial inclusivity, the financial institution has an opportunity to disclose the amount of investment directed towards low-income developing countries.