Al Gore fund may win Kiwi dollars


Watch ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ (2007) before giving any of your money to this.

5:00AM Wednesday January 09, 2008
By Tamsyn Parker

Kiwi investors may soon be able to gain access to global climate change guru Al Gore’s sustainable investment fund through the ASB Bank.

Last year ASB’s parent company the Commonwealth Bank opened Generation Global Sustainability Fund to Australian investors through its investment arm Colonial First State, and ASB is considering its options here.

ASB head of business ventures Peter Hall said the Al Gore fund was just one of the options the bank was looking at.

“We are currently considering offering a sustainable investment option but have not yet made a final decision.”

The bank has been reviewing its sustainable business practices over the past nine months and any new product is likely to be introduced this financial year.

If it does so the bank would be only the third New Zealand-based financial company to offer products designed specifically to meet responsible investment criteria to the general public.

AMP Capital Investors launched its first responsible investment product – the Responsible Investment Leaders Global Shares fund – in December.
Asteron has been operating ethical funds in the New Zealand market since 2002 and is the only fund manager to offer a socially responsible KiwiSaver fund.

But the number of fund managers offering products in this area is expected to grow on the back of KiwiSaver.

From April all KiwiSaver providers have to spell out their policy on responsible investment.

Money Matters managing director and New Zealand director of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia Rodger Spiller said New Zealand had been relatively slow to develop in this area compared with Australia and other developed nations.

“It’s difficult to pin down exactly why but the challenge is people being aware of the whole area of responsible investment.

“Education is a key issue and is something that has helped it to grow in Australia.”

Spiller said New Zealand financial advisers had also been slow to take it on board and the association was about to launch an education course in conjunction with training group Adviserlink to help address the situation.

The latest RIAA report shows around $15 billion was invested in responsible investment funds as of the end of June 2007 – mainly boosted by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund which manages $13 billion.

The figures only include New Zealand-managed money but Kiwi investors can also gain access to sustainable funds through several Australian companies, including Hunter Hall, Australian Ethical Investment and the Challenger Financial Services Group.

Matthew Mimms, managing director of Investment Store, which distributes Hunter Hall products to advisers in New Zealand, said growing awareness of climate change and sustainability issues was making responsible investment more pertinent and the attitude that ethical funds equated to average returns was also changing.

“In the past their primary value has been making money but they are now looking at prescribing more importance to other values.”

Hunter Hall CEO Peter Hall said although people’s awareness of sustainability issues was growing it was still the bottom line which counted most.

“Most people invest with us because we have strong performance – the ethical side is just a bonus.”

Climate watch

The Generation Global Sustainability fund:

* Managed by Generation Investment Management which was set up in 2004 by former US vice-president Al Gore and former global head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management David Blood.

* Generation’s investment approach is based on the idea that sustainability factors – including economic, health, environmental, social and governance factors – will ultimately drive a company’s share price over the long term.

* It invests in up to 60 companies. Current investments include: BG Group, a national gas exploration and production company; Novo Nordisk, market leader in insulin supply for diabetics; and Johnson Controls, manufacturer of batteries for hybrid vehicles.

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Clare Swinney

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