The recent admission by the Guardians of the New Zealand Super Fund (NZSF) that they continue to invest in certain companies complicit in gross human rights violations in (China for example), while conspicuously divesting from Israel banks calls into question the integrity of the funds application of their ‘ethical standards policy’.
A spokesperson for the Guardians responded to criticism of their investment in some Chinese companies complicit in gross human rights violations by declaring “If we exited every company facing conduct concerns, all we’d achieve is to sell our stock to someone who cares less about these issues and is more willing to turn a blind eye.”
Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Dr David Cumin, says the NZSF’s unique divestment of Israeli stocks makes a mockery of New Zealand’s “ethical investing” credentials on the world stage at a most inopportune time for NZ.
“The admission that the Guardians are somewhat willing to turn a blind eye to forced labour, targeting of Uyghur Muslims for oppression, censorship, Chinese state surveillance, and other human rights abuses; while they have selectively focussed on divesting from Israeli stocks makes a mockery of the Guardians’ attempts to portray themselves as ethical investors.
To be ethical one needs to be balanced, to show no bias, to prioritise the worst and largest offenders first. The NZSF does the opposite. Their decision to divest from Israeli banks under the advice of anti-Israel activists such as John Minto is just not the Kiwi way.”
In May, the Guardians became the only sovereign wealth fund managers in democratic countries to divest from Israeli banks. At the time, The Israel Institute of New Zealand pointed out how their justification document was riddled with significant errors and that the move was hypocritical. The Guardians declared that their decision was based largely on the UN Global Compact but they ignored the fact that at least one of the Israeli banks is an active signatory of that very Compact.
Dr Cumin says the recent NZSF news is badly timed for NZ with the AUKUS announcement because it suggests that there exist important symbolic differences in the values of NZ and its traditional allies, Australia, USA, UK.
The NZSF’s anti-Israel bias and pro-Chinese stance is a conspicuous public message that the government’s values differ from traditional allies.
“The Guardians brought New Zealand’s reputation into disrepute when they unfairly singled out Israel for divestment on flawed grounds. Now they have further brought the country into disrepute by doubling down on investments where there are actual gross human rights abuses.
Israel is an important strategic, ideological and commercial ally of our allies. Israel is also a global powerhouse in high technology and environmental sciences and has had a free trade agreement with the US for decades.
Enabling anti-Israel activists to influence NZ’s strategic interests via the proxy of the NZSF makes MFAT appear unreliable and calls into question the judgement of NZSF Governance.”
You can write to the Guardians and Minister of Finance, Hon Grant Robertson, at https://israelinstitute.nz/challenge-super-fund-hypocrisy/