Apostle Funds Management has released the first impact report for its People & Planet Diversified Fund detailing its action on climate change, gender equality, and other issues.
Demonstrating its commitment to climate, the boutique manager said that it supported all climate-related shareholder proposals put forward for companies within its portfolio.
The firm indicated that it has also taken a “firm stance” on board diversity. Apostle said that it opposed 41 per cent of director elections where the board did not include at least 40 per cent representation from under-represented gender identities.
Additionally, Apostle opposed 59 per cent of director elections where the board lacked at least 20 per cent representation from racially or ethnically diverse directors.
According to Apostle managing director Karyn West, capital markets have an important role to play in scaling business solutions that address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on climate and gender diversity.
“In our first impact report, we wanted to share how we think about impactful investment, our approach, and highlight some of the work we are proud of, areas where we have achieved impactful ‘performance’ and areas where we would like to move the dial and enhance our efforts,” she said.
“We are committed to connecting pools of capital with the problems facing the world today. It not only makes ethical sense but also directs investments into real growth opportunities which supports our clients objectives.”
Apostle said it prioritises investments with a focus on advancing gender equality through active ownership and excludes investments that are underperforming its equality benchmark.
Despite gradual progress in the representation of women in senior management roles globally, Apostle pointed out that women continue to be significantly under-represented in executive leadership teams within top Australian companies.
Chief Executive Women’s latest Senior Executive Census found that 91 per cent of ASX 300 company CEOs are men, with 82 per cent of CEO pipeline roles also being held by men.
Meanwhile, only 23 per cent of ASX 300 companies had gender-balanced leadership teams, while 28 companies had no women in their executive leadership teams.
Apostle also highlighted the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Scorecard for 2023. Australia’s gender pay gap reached a new low of 21.7 per cent, but women continue to earn significantly less than their male counterparts.
“Our approach to active ownership ensures that our engagement and voting decisions are geared towards addressing pay and leadership inequalities, accelerating the performance objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Apostle portfolio manager, sustainable investment, Kylie Parkyn.
“While the WGEA Scorecard results are encouraging. We acknowledge that there is still work to be done in order to promote more women into leadership roles.”
Ms Parkyn said that Apostle firmly believes in advocating for gender equality in its investments and embodying equality within its business.
“We are proud to be a female-led funds management business and maintain a gender-balanced workforce, with women making up over 40 per cent of our team,” she said.
“We are committed to ensuring equal pay for equal work among our male and female employees. We expect this same standard of the businesses we invest in with our fund.”
Since its launch, Apostle said that the fund has outperformed both the market index and the median return for balanced superannuation options.
Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.