A MOVEMENT that started in central Victoria is expected to lose a superannuation fund 146 members on Sunday.
It is the latest escalation in a push to force industry super fund HESTA to ditch its fossil fuel investments and could put other groups on notice about their own spending, advocate Leigh Read said in Bendigo.
"Most people don't want to divest but they feel their hands are being forced because otherwise they are continuing to invest in Santos, Woodside Energy and all sorts of other fossil fuels," he said.
Mr Read was one of the first 10 HESTA members who rolled their funds over last year, in protest of the funds' investments in new drilling rigs off of Western Australia's coast.
Most of those first members were based in central Victoria but Sunday's actions should be seen as an indication those first protests were not isolated incidents, Mr Read said.
HESTA members gathered in opposition to fossil fuels in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania, as well as Bendigo and Castlemaine on Friday.
First Nations from areas fossil fuel companies Santos and Woodside had a presence in have also thrown their support behind the push to move HESTA out of the industries, he said.
HESTA has about 900,000 members and it is unlikely they would take a huge hit if the latest members roll funds over, but the campaign is gaining support of people from a wide range of backgrounds.
Some are at the start of their careers and others, including at least one doctor, are more than two decades in, Mr Read said.
"HESTA is starting to hear the message but they are still too slow," he said.
About 3.89 per cent of HESTA's total portfolio was linked to fossil fuels in 2021, chief investment officer Sonya Sawtell-Rickson said.
She warned that divestment alone would not protect members' superannuation investments from climate-related risks, given the systematic risks to the entire global economy.
"Simply selling shares in these companies, without first attempting to change their behaviour, does not contribute to reducing emissions or reduce systemic risk," Ms Sawtell-Rickson said.
She said carefully monitoring and engaging with fossil fuel companies had encouraged the uptake of net zero targets, climate-related risk disclosures and investments in breakthrough technologies.
"While more needs to be done, we are committed to being a voice at the table to continue to drive necessary change," Ms Sawtell-Rickson said.
Mr Read said that was a hypocritical position.
"The money of HESTA members is still being used to fund projects by Woodside and Santos, so they are not moving away, they are building new projects," he said.
"I know for me, I had rolled over to their greener options to support them to shift, but it just hasn't happened.
"We are at a point now that we really need urgent action, and HESTA's just not doing that."
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