This is part 2 of our 3-part series on Ethical Investing, where we will discuss the controversial areas in which some KiwiSaver funds are invested. BetterSaver can help you ensure your fund matches your values.
A recent BetterSaver poll revealed that most people are unclear whether or not their KiwiSaver fund matches their values, so we decided to address the issue. In part one of this series, we covered four areas many Kiwis find to be of ethical concern: alcohol, gambling, tobacco, and adult entertainment.
In part two, we will discuss two more areas that your KiwiSaver fund may be invested in: animal testing and nuclear power.
On the surface, these both sound negative. I know my initial reaction is that I don’t want anything to do with either issue. But, there are potential benefits that some may want to consider. By being fully informed, you can make your own opinion and take action that aligns with it.
To be clear, we are not advocating for or against investing in any of these areas but providing information so you can make your own informed decisions.
Every year, more than 115 million animals are used for laboratory testing. Proponents of animal testing argue that it is worth utilising animals before testing on humans. Opponents of the practice argue that it is cruel and unnecessary, especially given modern technological advancements in non-animal techniques.
There is no doubt that Kiwis are against animal cruelty. A survey of 750 Kiwis found that 93% rated it as somewhat important, important, or very important that their KiwiSaver funds were not invested in companies involved in cruelty to animals.
So you might be surprised to find out that your KiwiSaver fund may be invested in companies that use animals for cosmetic testing or pharmaceutical research. An analysis earlier this year showed that $2.7 billion goes to such companies.
But New Zealand banned cosmetic animal testing, right?
True. New Zealand banned cosmetic testing on animals in 2015. But there are a lot of big international companies that do product testing on animals, and some of these are common to KiwiSaver funds. Major corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Estee Lauder, and Unilever are just a few examples.
Even companies that state they do not test on animals may have a caveat - for example, Johnson & Johnson states they do not test products on animals “except in the rare situation where it is required by law or governments.” Likewise, Estee Lauder states that if a regulatory body demands it, “an exception can be made.”
This is because some countries, like China, require animal testing on cosmetics. To these big corporations, it would seem that dollars are more important than sticking to their stated values.
Are animals necessary for pharmaceutical trials?
Animal testing for pharmaceuticals may lead to advancements in treating and curing illness and disease in humans and other animals. Animal trials are usually used to test safety before moving to human trials.
Some of our most valuable medical advancements have resulted from animal testing, like cardiac bypass operations, kidney dialysis, and life support for pre-term babies. Animal testing is used to develop vaccines and to test experimental surgeries like organ transplants and hip replacements.
However, it has been argued that besides the pain and suffering inflicted, animal testing is pointless because it doesn’t produce results relevant to humans. More than 90% of drugs that tested safely in animals from 2006-2015 failed when given to humans. Drugs that have tested safe in animals yet prove toxic to humans cause further human suffering rather than reducing it. On the flip side, drugs that test toxic in animals and thus do not progress to trial may have been safe for humans, causing us to miss out on safe treatments.
It can take decades of animal testing to create a viable drug. More than 1,000 drugs have been tested in animals for stroke, but only one was effective in humans. Is the cost worth the potential gains? Only you can decide where you stand on the issue.
Weighing it up
Some may view animal testing as acceptable and even necessary to make advancements. Others may find it unnecessary and cruel.
With BetterSaver, you can make an informed choice on your investment exposure to this industry. Using our fund finder quiz, you can express your personal attitude towards this and other industry sectors. Then we’ll match you to a fund that aligns with your values.
Today, our power comes predominantly from fossil fuels. What will we do when we run short of coal, oil, and gas? Nuclear power is one option.
Just using the word “nuclear” has negative connotations for many Kiwis. The act that banned nuclear weapons from NZ does not apply to nuclear energy, but many Kiwis associate the two. For some of us, our knowledge of nuclear power comes mainly from The Simpsons. Luckily, Homer isn’t running any nuclear power plants in the real world.
What is nuclear power?
Nuclear power is generated by harnessing the energy created from splitting atoms. Uranium atoms are split in nuclear reactors. The energy boils water for steam that creates electricity.
What’s the danger?
Radioactive byproducts and waste materials that remain dangerous for thousands of years
Fear of another Chernobyl disaster causing radioactive contamination
Every uranium pellet contains the same energy as a ton of coal or three barrels of oil
Produces renewable, clean energy without greenhouse gas emissions
Efficient and reliable round-the-clock electricity
In terms of accidents and pollution, it is safer than coal, oil, and gas
Is nuclear power in use today?
Currently, about 10% of the world’s energy comes from 440 nuclear reactors and 55 more reactors are under construction. There are also 220 research reactors in 50 countries. Over the last 40 years, performance of nuclear reactors has increased significantly.
The state of California has long fought to be rid of nuclear power, but amid increasingly common rolling blackouts, some residents have changed their minds and their last remaining power plant may now remain open. For the same reason, Japan is restarting some of their plants and considering building more, despite the Fukushima meltdown over a decade ago.
Nuclear power generation may offer an alternative but may expose us to greater risk if things go wrong. Dealing with radioactive waste poses a significant challenge. It is important to be aware that investing in nuclear power also means investing in further research to explore the issue.
New Zealand does not have nuclear energy, but your KiwiSaver fund may invest in nuclear power research. When you decide where you sit on the issue, take our fund finder quiz to switch to a fund that aligns with your stance.
BetterSaver makes it easy to put your money where your mouth is
If you avoid purchasing from companies that test on animals, you probably don’t want your money invested in those companies. And if you disagree with nuclear power as an option, you likely don’t want to contribute to efforts to make it so.
We have designed our fund finder quiz to take into account your position on these and other ethical issues when matching you to a KiwiSaver fund. It takes less than 5 minutes to answer a few questions. If you choose to switch, we’ll do all the work. It’s that easy.
Take the fund finder quiz today to find a better KiwiSaver fund for you.