Managing modern slavery risks in our investments

Modern slavery is a significant and complex global issue impacting some of the most vulnerable people in society. It’s an important issue we consider at UniSuper when it comes to both our investments and in our own internal operations.

What do we mean by 'modern slavery’?

Modern slavery refers to the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. It's when offenders use coercion, threats or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom. It’s a significant and complex global issue; 80% of victims in Australia aren’t detected, and it’s estimated that over 40 million people worldwide could be living in modern slavery1. Modern slavery laws aim to protect workers from these risks.

How do we approach modern slavery in our investments?

As active investors, we consider key environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors relating to our investments. We recognise that risks like modern slavery can pose a risk to companies and make earnings unsustainable. We invest mainly in developed markets, so the incidence of modern slavery risk is likely to be lower. In 2023, we engaged FairSupply to conduct a high-level modern slavery assessment of our listed equities portfolio. As at 30 June 2023, approximately 89% of these investments had a low or moderate-low modern slavery risk.2

As we manage over 70% of our investments in-house, we’re able to engage with selected investee companies operating in areas identified with higher modern slavery risks. We discuss this issue in engagement meetings with company boards and management either directly or in collaboration with other like-minded organisations, like the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI). We use these meetings to understand a company's approach to key issues relating to their business and to encourage them to develop processes to identify and manage their risks.

We vote our shares at company meetings—we use our vote to send a message to a company where we think the company’s approach and commitments doesn’t adequately address a particular issue. We share our proxy voting results here and information about our engagement activities in our Responsible investment reports. Where we engage external investment managers, we select and monitor them carefully on the investments made on our behalf.

Member choice

We provide members with the choice of three sustainable and environmental branded investment options3. These allow members to limit their exposure to certain sectors, and they seek to exclude companies who have been found to commit human rights violations. Visit our website and read the Product disclosure statement for more information.

Managing risks in our supply chains

When seeking suppliers or signing contracts with vendors, we assess their potential modern slavery risk category. Our suppliers include goods and services providers external to UniSuper, such as external investment managers, third party data providers, suppliers of office equipment, and many others. If one of our suppliers is classified as high-risk, it brings about a more thorough modern slavery risk evaluation, and we’ll look to negotiate modern slavery provisions into our agreements. Although the majority of our suppliers are in Australia, where risks are likely to be lower, we do expect all suppliers to abide by our Supplier Code of Conduct, allowing us to perform audits to identify modern slavery risks. In the 2023 financial year, we engaged FairSupply to confirm that the overall modern slavery risk level in our supply chain is consistent with the superannuation industry.

More information?

Read our Modern slavery statement and our responsible investment policies and reports.

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  • Things you need to know

    1Source: Anti Slavery Australia, October 2023

    2Using FairSupply’s Integrated Assessment Engine. We used a risk-based approach, using geographic and sectoral exposures of our investments. This number is based on current methodology and taking into account supply chain risks only.

    3Sustainable and environmental investing means different things to different people. Different products have different investment criteria. Read our website to find out what sustainable and environmental investing means to us and what our investment options invest in.

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