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Putting ‘Super’ to Work for Charity

3 December 2015 at 9:58 am
Lina Caneva
Australia needs to adopt a groundbreaking superannuation program that has been operating in France for over a decade, providing billions of dollars for charitable projects, according to Not for Profit sector leaders.

Lina Caneva | 3 December 2015 at 9:58 am


Putting ‘Super’ to Work for Charity
3 December 2015 at 9:58 am

Australia needs to adopt a groundbreaking superannuation program that has been operating in France for over a decade, providing billions of dollars for charitable projects, according to Not for Profit sector leaders.

The CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), David Crosbie, said the French 90/10 super program was producing “amazing” results that would be very easy to apply to Australia.

As well, Impact Investing Australia, a Not for Profit organisation established in 2014 to develop the impact investment market in Australia, said it had also looked at the 90/10 rule and its value to Australia.

The French program was established in 2001, giving all French people with superannuation funds the opportunity to have up to 10 per cent of their super invested into organisations that have a strong social impact and a solid financial return.

Crosbie said that while the program started slowly, it suddenly gathered momentum in 2008 once all superannuation products had to provide the option of a solidarity investment, and now the “Solidarity Fund” had grown by 800 per cent in just five years.  

He said the super investment in France had not damaged returns and was ultimately a small amount of the overall investment.

“Back in 2008, $700 million of super was being put into projects that helped people in some way. Now it’s an incredible $5.5 billion (based on 2013 figures) and growing,” Crosbie said.

“This is so easy to apply to Australia. A few small changes would allow Australians to put a small percentage of their super into projects that are making a difference and showing a clear financial return. The fact is we are talking about very small commitments that add up to huge money.”

Community Council for Australia said that if just 2 per cent of Australia’s “MySuper” products were invested in projects having a positive social impact (and positive return), then as much as $8.5 billion would be instantly created.

Crosbie said this money would make a huge difference to many people’s lives – and none of the funds would be coming from government.

“Imagine $8.5 billion going into public housing in Australia? That’s not a pipe dream. By adopting this concept, it could happen. At least 50,000 new places in affordable housing could be created in one year,” he said.

He said that $2 trillion was currently invested in super in Australia and $428 billion was being put into “MySuper” products (the 116 approved super products that exist in Australia).

Contributions to all super funds with over four members went up in Australia by over $100 billion in just the past 12 months alone.

“Imagine the vision of charities and Not for Profits being able to serve communities in a bigger way and strengthen those communities,” Crosbie said.

“The Prime Minister and Treasurer have clearly said nothing is off the table. Let’s move now because this is a clear template for a revolution that Australia desperately needs.”

Chair and Co-Founder of Impact Investing Australia , Rosemary Addis, said the French experience showed that, given the choice, people wanted investment options that help create the kind of community they want to retire into as well as providing a retirement income.

“Other countries including the UK are looking at similar measures that drive resources to positive social outcomes,” Addis said.  

“It would be a positive step to make investment that's good for society a choice open to everyone.”

Chair of CCA, Tim Costello, described the concept as “incredible”.

“It’s revolutionary and easy to adapt.This would have an enormous impact for Not for Profits and communities across the nation. It would create billions of dollars of new investment into the sector.  It’s very simple too, and it is really simply about providing an option that currently does not exist,” Costello said.

“Our Not for Profit sector would then have increased capacity. More money to invest in innovation. More money to enable economically marginalised people to build equity in property and their communities. More jobs, more money going into education and more money for healthcare.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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