Investing our way to equality: how Verve uses our power as a shareholder to invest for equality

Author Lily Spencer
Posted on 30 November 2018
Investing our way to equality: how Verve uses our power as a shareholder to invest for equality

“The data is overwhelming that investing in, by, and for women accelerates social change and drives return.” – Jackie VanderBrug, social impact investor and executive”*1

For the first time, Australian women have the means to pool our collective retirement savings – a staggering $1 trillion dollars – to decide what kind of world we want to build.

Verve takes a different approach to ethical investing, one that we hope will become mainstream sooner rather than later. Simply put, we don’t ignore women. Instead, we think about women and women’s lives when considering a business and its impacts.

So, for example, Verve doesn’t invest in companies that abuse the rights of women workers in their supply chains. We also actively avoid investments in companies with no women in senior leadership, particularly at the board level.

If a company is otherwise ethical, but doesn’t have any women on its board, we will work with our fund managers to help a company change its structure. But ultimately, if no action is taken we advise our fund manager to dump the stock.

We strongly believe in collaboration and engagement, to move the rest of the investment community with us. Working together makes us stronger.

There are great investment funds out there doing the right thing by women and we want to support them. For instance, Verve invests in an Australian and an international ethical Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) through ETF provider Betashares, Our Fund Managers Future Super helped designed this ETF and it is the only broadly ethical ETF on the market which doesn’t invest in companies with no women on the Board. That’s $188 million of ethically invested money directed towards companies that understand the basics of gender diversity in leadership.

Together with Future Super and Betashares, we have now written to all companies in the Global ethical fund with no women on the Board to encourage better corporate governance by including at least one woman. These companies have until the end of March to make an appointment, after which time they will be removed from the ETF at the annual re-balance. This will see a further pool of $238 million in ethically invested funds diverted away from companies without women on their Boards.

With Verve, we aren’t just waiting or asking someone else to change the world. Verve is a vehicle to be the change we want to see and invite others to join us. Whether we’re working with companies or politicians, we do so from a place of strength and equality, aiming for collaboration.

We’re on a mission to build and activate women’s financial power, and accelerate our power to affect the issues we care about – whether that’s climate change, education, human rights, or equality.

At Verve Super we don’t invest in gambling, offshore detention, tobacco, weapons, animal cruelty, or fossil fuels. We do invest in education, renewable energy, recycling, ethical healthcare, community infrastructure and future-focused technology. Our Fund Management team have a strong track record of outperforming the sector, and ethical funds are consistently found to outperform the market over the long-term. Oh and just quietly, superannuation funds with 30% of women in leadership have outperformed male-dominated funds by $7 billion over three years.

As we invest thoughtfully and use our voice, we build our wealth by building the world we want. We support companies doing the right thing by women, our community and the planet. We grow more leadership and change the system to benefit women everywhere. We use our power for good.

Verve: it’s about time.

*1 https://ssir.org/articles/entry/mainstreaming_gender_lens_investing