The articles you read in 2020

This year tested every principle of sustainability, from the bushfires that began the year to the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from shoving ESG down the agenda, the impacts of both crises proved a force multiplier for the impact of environmental, social and governance issues, ranging from the link between workers made more vulnerable by the pandemic and overall human rights and modern slavery to the impacts of climate change.

This year tested every principle of sustainability, from the bushfires that began the year to the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from shoving ESG down the agenda, the impacts of both crises proved a force multiplier for the impact of environmental, social and governance issues, ranging from the link between workers made more vulnerable by the pandemic and overall human rights and modern slavery to the impacts of climate change.

This year also marked the launch of this title, FS Sustainability, in September. Below, we have a list of the most read articles since our masthead's relaunch.

Before we leave you with the year's top stories, we send warm wishes of solidarity and look forward to continuing our coverage in 2021.

Head of sustainability salaries revealed (24 September)

The average salary for a head of sustainability role in tops $300,000, with women earning slightly more than men, according to research from specialist recruitment agency Talent Nation.

Talent Nation collected information from over 200 companies in Australia and New Zealand, across a variety of industries and locations. The average salary was $314,159, but there are differences based on location and industry sector.

Zenith creates ESG framework for fund classification (15 October)

Zenith Investment Partners is aiming to demystify ESG and responsible investing strategies for clients by introducing a tiered framework that describes funds' activities based on their research.

Zenith's responsible investment framework establishes five tiers. All funds with a current Zenith investment grade rating receive a responsible investment classification, noting that classifications are fund-specific.

Super fund ESG option tops charts with investment returns (8 October)

One industry superannuation fund's ESG option has posted an impressive 34% return over the past year to the end of August, vastly outperforming other fund's ESG options and even outperforming other ESG options within the same super fund.

UniSuper's Global Environmental Opportunities fund option has $1.5 billion in assets under management, as of 31 August. The Global Environmental Opportunities fund has performed strongly over longer time periods since inception as well - over the last three years, the fund has returned 17.18%, over five years, 14.24%, and over seven years, 13.67%.

PGIM charts rise of corporate "profit with purpose" mindset (6 March)

Companies are increasingly adopting a "profit with purpose" mindset and investors should be aware of relevant environmental, social and governance (ESG) information as part of their investment process, according to global fund manager PGIM.

A PGIM survey found the key reasons for firms to adopt purpose beyond profit are increased sales from a reputation boost (50%), long-term business viability (44%) and their ability to attract top talent (33%). A smaller share of firms said it was because it was the right thing to do (19%) or that it serves the company's core purpose (18%), PGIM said.

Investors urge companies to broaden view of modern slavery risks 13 November)

A coalition of Australian fund managers and super funds have written the 100 largest companies in Australia, encouraging them to examine broad supply chain risks of labour exploitation as a leading indicator of modern slavery.

The coalition of 24 investors, Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking (IAST) APAC,  includes AustralianSuper, Cbus, Aware Super, HESTA, Australian Ethical and other fund managers representing $5.8 trillion in assets under management. IAST APAC sent a letter to the ASX100, signalling their shared concerns about industries and supply chains, with particular concern over "industries and supply chains where there is a significant use of vulnerable workers (e.g. migrant labour, base skilled labour), complex supply chains with many intermediaries, supply chains where oligopolistic buyers exert significant pricing power over suppliers and supply chains where there is significant pressure on lead times."

Regulator appoints first head of climate risk (15 October)

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has hired Graham Sinden as head of climate risk.

Sinden is APRA's first head of climate risk and started in the role on Monday 15 October, according to an APRA spokesperson. He comes to APRA from EY, where he was a director in the climate and sustainability practice, working for public and private sector clients on climate risk, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable finance.

Prior to that, he was executive director of Climate Strategies, and senior strategy manager at Carbon Trust, both in London. Previous employers also included the University of Oxford, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Majority of super funds not disclosing portfolio holdings: Rainmaker (2 October)

The majority of major superannuation funds are not disclosing their portfolio holdings, according to research from Rainmaker Information.

Rainmaker's 2020 Super Fund Portfolio Holdings Study found only 27 major super funds, about one-quarter, practice portfolio holdings disclosure (PHD). Of the superannuation funds that do disclose their portfolio holdings, most were not-for-profit (NFP) funds.

The lack of disclosure by super funds stands in contrast to the growing popularity of ESG integration by super funds, as well as funds' simultaneous claims that they are committed to transparency.

Read more: EYPGIMGlobal Environmental OpportunitiesTalent NationZenith Investment PartnersUniSuperGraham SindenAustralian EthicalAustralianSuperAware SuperCarbon TrustCbusHESTAIAST APACAustralian Prudential Regulation Authority
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