ING Is Not Ethical

Question


Hi Scott,

Love your work. However, I was disappointed to see a news piece in the weekend paper about super funds being less than transparent about their ethics. I was also disappointed to discover that ING (which you recommend in your book) invests in coal. Saving money is important to me, but so is using my money ethically. So my question is: can you recommend a truly ethical super fund and bank? And could you consider taking ethics into account when you make recommendations?

Janice

Scott's Answer


Hi Janice,

Can I recommend an ethical super fund and bank?

No, I can’t.

It would be unethical of me to presuppose other people’s ethics.

Some people are like you – they really care about the environment. Others couldn’t give a Clive Palmer.

My job is to educate, empower, and find the best deals without fear or favour.

Then you – the end user – should apply your own criteria.

And that’s why I don’t rate ‘ethical’ or ‘socially responsible’ investments.

The article you mentioned cited research from an environmental group called Market Forces which found that some ethical super fund options, from the likes of Hostplus, CareSuper and AMP, don’t disclose the companies they invest in. For example, AMP’s ethical fund holds fossil fuel mining companies.

Then again, AMP argued that it ‘only represents 2% of the portfolio’.

Interesting rebuttal.

That’s like dating what you think is a straight-laced marrying type, only to find he’s just gone on a week-long crystal meth bender. “But I only get on the gear when my bro Tino is in town! It’s, like, 2% of my year. I’m totally legit 98% of the time, babe.”

Right.

My main tofu with ethical funds is not about what they invest in, but that the majority are ‘free range’ in how they charge. “A sizeable number of ‘sustainable’ funds produce sub-optimal returns at relatively high fee levels”, according to SuperRatings.

Personally, I’d rather invest in a low-cost fund and be tens of thousands of dollars better off. Then I can choose to donate the difference to causes that I care about.

Then again, they’re my ethics, not yours!

Scott