Ethical Partners acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of all Lands on which we come together. We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures enrich this nation, and we pay our respects to Elders, past and present. In recognition of Reconciliation Action Week, Ethical Partners wishes to take this opportunity to reiterate its commitment and responsibility to address Indigenous Rights in our investments, and in our engagements with companies.
Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2021, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. Furthermore, 2021 marks 20 years of Reconciliation Australia and is a critical tipping point.
Sadly, the past year has made tragically clear that we still have a long way to go to on how we as a society respect and protect the rights of our Indigenous Peoples - from the incidents at Juukan Gorge and the exposure of the failure of Free Prior and Informed Consent in the corporate actions of several mining companies to the continued tragedy of Indigenous deaths in custody, the persistent gaps in Indigenous health and education, and the protests over Invasion Day. The Black Lives Matter protests have also reverberated widely through the world and exposed the structural racism and discrimination that underlies many societies and countries.
At Ethical Partners, we firmly believe that as the first stewards of Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture should hold a special and celebrated place in the institutions and fabric of modern Australian society. In addition, and consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we firmly believe should have a say on the laws, policies and services that impact their lives. We support the Uluru Statement from the Heart as this is a historic mandate for substantive constitutional change and structural reform, and we furthermore believe an Indigenous Voice, enshrined in the constitution could provide the necessary mechanisms for this change, in a fair and practical way.
It is for this reason Ethical Partners made a submission to the Interim Report to the Australian Government: Indigenous Voice Co-design Process 2021.
In this Reconciliation Action Week, Ethical Partners also reiterates our commitment to integrating Indigenous rights within our own values and approach as well as through our investment process. As part of our proprietary EPORA investment process, we consider Indigenous Rights, as well as a company’s commitment to cultural heritage, reconciliation action plans and their attention to diversity in regard to Indigenous employment, procurement and corporate actions.
Alarmingly, our recent EPORA analysis this year has found that there are only 14% of ASX 200 companies that specifically address Indigenous rights in their reporting or public corporate policies.
There is clearly a long way to go for corporate Australian in regard to Reconciliation Action Plans, with a wide range of quality and implementation, and this is something that we are committed to engaging on both with our portfolio companies but also on a wider investor, civil society and government level.
Pleasingly though, within our portfolio’s we have been able to identify several companies who are working towards addressing their responsibilities to our Indigenous Peoples.
Ethical Partners commend Mirvac, NAB and NIB on their Reconciliation Action Plans illustrating their commitment and implementation of indigenous rights and initiatives. We also believe that Coles and Meridian Energy have demonstrated some good and improving practices in this area.
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Ethical Partners are pleased to see Australia take the next steps to implement mandatory climate reporting with the release of draft climate standards, which we provided feedback on.
Ethical Partners have continuously called for the provision of high quality, comparable data on company’s climate governance and carbon metrics, which we believe is imperative for investors to fulfil the potential of responsible investment.
Ethical Partners have been proud to have been active supporters of the TNFD Forum over the past few years, and to provide regular feedback on the development of the official TNFD recommendations, which were launched in December, as well as to be active members of the RIAA Natural Capital Working Group.