The Ambassador Comes to Call

When my wife and I were students at Regent University working on our doctorates we often had gatherings at our large Victorian home in South Norfolk.  I’ll never forget when a man from Africa attend...

Dr. Robert Owens - avatar Dr. Robert Owens

View from The Hill: Joyce could be facing waves at a judicial inquiry after the election

It’s hard to believe Barnaby Joyce really wants to lead the Nationals again. Of course everyone knows he does, desperately, but his unhinged ABC interview with Patricia Karvelas on Monday showed...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Australia's 'watergate': here's what taxpayers need to know about water buybacks

The federal government committed to reducing water extraction from the Murray-Darling Basin.ShutterstockIn 2017, the then agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, signed off on an A$80 million purchase of...

Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia - avatar Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia

Ethnic media are essential for new migrants and should be better funded

An annual indexation freeze in funding introduced by the Liberal government in 2013 has cost the sector almost A$1 million.ShutterstockThe fact that the community ethnic and multicultural broadcasting...

John Budarick, Lecturer in Media, University of Adelaide - avatar John Budarick, Lecturer in Media, University of Adelaide

Rift between NZ government and aid agency over naming of nurse captured by ISIS

The ICRC may have decided to release the name of a New Zealand nurse captured in Syria because ISIS has been defeated in its strongholds.Ahmed Mardnli/EPA, CC BY-NDLast week’s revelation that a ...

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato - avatar Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

Media Files: Investigative journalist Adele Ferguson on the 'disappointing' banking royal commission and how she works with whistleblowers

Today on Media Files, it’s journalism versus the big banks. We’re hearing from Adele Ferguson, the celebrated journalist who many credit as the driving force behind the banking royal commi...

Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne - avatar Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

FUCT gets day in court as SCOTUS considers dropping slippery moral standard when granting trademarks

When’s a brand too scandalous to trademark? That’s a question the Supreme Court will soon decide in a case that tests the constitutional limits of free speech. I attended the oral argument...

Megan M Carpenter, Dean, University of New Hampshire - avatar Megan M Carpenter, Dean, University of New Hampshire

'I'm not a traitor, you are!' Political argument from the Founding Fathers to today's partisans

How partisans argue tells a lot about how the public sees democracyShutterstockPresident Trump is working with the Russians to enrich himself. The Republican Party is shielding him from accountability...

Jeffrey Selinger, Associate Professor of Government, Bowdoin College - avatar Jeffrey Selinger, Associate Professor of Government, Bowdoin College

Why federal student aid should be restored for people in prison

Research shows prison education lessens the chances that inmates will return to prison after their release.Elaine Thompson/APCongress is thinking of lifting a longstanding ban on federal student aid f...

Andrea Cantora, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore - avatar Andrea Cantora, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore

A quest to reconstruct Baltimore's American Indian 'reservation'

Members of East Baltimore Church of God, which was founded by Lumbee Indians, and was once located in the heart of 'the reservation,' in the 1700 block of E. Baltimore Street.Photo courtesy of Rev. Ro...

Ashley Minner, Lecturer, Folklorist, University of Maryland, Baltimore County - avatar Ashley Minner, Lecturer, Folklorist, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

What Leonardo's depiction of Virgin Mary and Jesus tells us about his religious beliefs

Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks.National Gallery LondonOn the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, Italian academic Francesco Caglioti’s recent claim that a sculpture he...

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Haub Director of Catholic Studies, Georgetown University - avatar Diane Apostolos-Cappadona, Haub Director of Catholic Studies, Georgetown University

Understanding the periodic table through the lens of the volatile Group I metals

Sodium metal explodes on contact with water. Albert Russ/Shutterstock.comThe news broke that a railroad car, loaded with pure sodium, had just derailed and was spilling its contents. A television repo...

Erwin Boschmann, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, IUPUI - avatar Erwin Boschmann, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Chemical Biology, IUPUI

Japan’s next emperor is a modern, multilingual environmentalist

For the first time in 217 years, a Japanese emperor will cede his place on the imperial throne. On April 30, Japan’s ailing 85-year-old Emperor Akihito will abdicate and be replaced the followin...

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County - avatar Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In India, WhatsApp is a weapon of antisocial hatred

Smartphones are a conduit for misinformation about the Indian election.AP Photo/Manish SwarupA general election in India, the world’s most populous democracy, seems a theoretical impossibility. ...

Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University - avatar Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University

Right now Greg Combet is arguably the most powerful man in Australia.

Earlier this month the former trade unionist and federal politician declared his intention to transform Australian business. His radical idea: to promote the concept of “long-term value”.

Combet is chairman of Industry Super Australia, which represents 16 of Australia’s biggest industry funds and thus the vast bulk of the A$630 billion saved by more than 11 million Australians.

These super funds would use their massive clout as investors to transform corporate culture, Combet told the Australian Financial Review. He wants business to focus on long-term sustainability, not be “hostage to the short-term share price or six-monthly profit announcements”.

Read more: With a billion reasons not to trust super trustees, we need regulators to act in the public interest

“The energy sector is an example of where long-term thinking is needed,” he said. “We have to start making a significant transition from old coal-fired power plants to renewable energy generation and distribution.”

But his ambition is much broader than this one controversial issue.

Not that revolutionary

Not everyone is happy about the idea of industry super funds, which have strong links to trade unions, pushing companies to focus on environmental, social and governance performance.

This week the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, responding to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s “urgent” request for guidance on “aggressive union behaviour”, warned super funds to keep away from financial activism.

Heather Ridout, a former head of the Australian Industry Group who now chairs the AustralianSuper fund, has told Frydenberg to stop politicising super.

Combet says his agenda has nothing to do with “activism”.

He’s right. His ideas really aren’t that revolutionary. In other parts of the world they would simply be regarded as responsible investor behaviour.

Greg Combet at the launch of his political memoir, The Fights of My Life, in July 2014. Paul Miller/AAP

Australian super funds have a legal obligation to manage their members’ funds for the long term.

Representing “retirement timeframe” interests means super funds want companies to think about how to sustain value over decades.

Up to now this has not necessarily translated into funds directly and consistently communicating their long-term interests to company boards. Combet’s declaration signals this is going to change.

There is plenty of research to suggest this will be a good thing.

Companies focused on the long term are more successful. They prioritise ethical behaviour, customer service, community value, environmental stewardship and other non-financial outcomes. Over the longer term they also have stronger share price growth.

Investors who help companies focus on the long term thus help themselves. It is a virtuous circle.

But revolutionary enough

According to the ASX Corporate Governance Council, not known for revolutionary subversion, the issues that effective boards must now take into account include “culture, conduct risk, digital disruption, cyber-security, sustainability and climate change”. There are others coming.

In the wake of the revelations of the banking royal commission, it would be irresponsible for the heads of superannuation funds to sit by as passive observers and not direct boards to these issues.

Globally, institutional investors, governments and companies are working together to move beyond solving specific issues such as corporate social responsibility, sustainability reporting and ethical investment.

Read more: What is corporate social responsibility – and does it work?

In fact, the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment initiative, boasting more than 7,000 corporate and investor signatories, exhorts investors to go beyond “strictly financial benefits” and engage with companies on environmental, social and governance factors. Integrated approaches are at the forefront of practice.

Australia has been lagging behind. So for Combet to spell out a clear ambition to harness the power of the superannuation sector for long-term thinking is significant.

Perhaps he senses the opportunity to lead changes to the Australian economy, and society, that were out of reach during his 19 months as federal industry minister.

He wields immense power in a sector with even greater latent power. Superannuation assets now total A$2.7 trillion, and funds own about half of Australian shares. If Combet can leverage Industry Super Australia’s fund bloc to get the ball rolling, the momentum could be truly ground-breaking.

We will now see which of Australia’s economic elite join his mission and collaborate in building global momentum. Those who want to resist, or who cannot organise themselves to participate, should know the clock is now ticking.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/super-power-why-the-future-of-australian-capitalism-is-now-in-greg-combets-hands-113648