When 'ethical' funds invest in sexploitation

I have been a client of Australian Ethical for a number of years now. I made the conscious choice to switch super funds in an effort to invest more responsibly. Their website says "We invest in companies to have a positive impact on the planet, people and animals. We agitate for change and that means taking a stance." This sounded great and seemed aligned to my values.

Until I realised that Australian Ethical invested in property. And this included Lendlease Group and Stockland who facilitate Honey Birdette's harmful hyper-sexualised advertising. The very advertising I have been campaigning against for years. And just so we are clear this is the type of advertising that Honey Birdette are pushing in the public domain to our kids. This is what Lendlease Group and Stockland are facilitating. This is what Australian Ethical are investing in. This is what my superannuation is funding. 

Australian Ethical replied:

"We agree the advertising from Honey Birdette is concerning. They have breached the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics 30 times since 2012 & shown general disregard toward compliance with the Code."

"We are engaging with Lendlease & Stocklands asking them to require Honey Birdette to comply with the Code for all advertising within their shopping centres."

"We invest in Lendlease because they develop & manage a range of properties including schools & hospitals & are considered a sector leader in sustainability. They’re also one of the few companies in the industry to target large scale urban regeneration projects."

"Like all companies Lendlease has negative impacts which we take into account in our ethics assessment. But not every negative will mean a company is automatically ruled out for investment & in some cases we can have more of an impact engaging with them."

"We exclude over 60% of the ASX top 200 companies. The word ethical doesn't mean every company we invest in is perfect (in our experience perfect companies are rare). We look at the positives and negatives to assess if a company is, overall, aligned with our Ethical Charter."

How can Lendlease Group be deemed ethical when it ignores customer concerns? When it facilitates harm to men, women and children who visit their centres with a Honey Birdette? 

We are writing to Australian Ethical to express our concerns and to highlight the full extent of the harms being perpetrated by the properties they are investing in. 

Australian Ethical is one of many ethical investment companies we have written to highlighting their mission statements and contrasting these with the reality that is the facilitating of sexist attitudes and behaviours by property group landlords.

So far two investment companies have notified property groups of an ‘ethical downgrade’ and the divestment of shares on behalf of their shareholders.

Does your superannuation fund invest in property groups that lease to a Honey Birdette? Check out our property owner matrix here and compare that to the properties listed on your super fund website.

*Update* Christian Super have responded:

"Thanks for tagging us, we aware of this issue and Collective Shout's awesome work in speaking up for things like this. Here's what our investment team had to say... At Christian Super, we seek to invest in companies that align with Christian values, and avoid companies that act against these values. However, what this looks like in practice may differ from investment to investment. We do have investments in the two companies mentioned, Lendlease and Stockland. These companies are involved in developing, constructing, and managing commercial and residential properties. Shopping centres are a part of their portfolio, whereby they lease to stores, in this case Honey Birdette being one of them. We currently only consider tenants on a case by case basis, due to the diversified and large number of these. In the case of Honey Birdette, we disagree with the company’s advertising, however we do not hold Lendlease or Stockland accountable due to the indirect nature of the relationship. Thanks to our members who have expressed concern about this issue- it is appreciated, and we will be discussing the issue with the companies at the next available opportunity."

We are not buying it. They do not hold them accountable because of "the indirect nature of the relationship"? Lease agreement and rental income. Doesn’t get much more direct than that.

Read more:

Porn-style image in shopping malls: How ‘Male Champions’ fail to address sexism

CSR begins with men growing a conscience

Sexual assault survivor calls out Honey Birdette advertising


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