Member perceptions of ESG investing through superannuation

de Zwaan, Laura, Brimble, Mark, & Stewart, Jenny (2015) Member perceptions of ESG investing through superannuation. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6(1), pp. 79-102.

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Environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks have the potential to negatively impact financial returns, yet few superannuation funds integrate these considerations into their investment selection. The Cooper Review (2010) identified a lack of member demand as a key impediment to ESG investing by superannuation funds. Given this problem, the aim of this study is to explore superannuation fund members’ perceptions of ESG investing by their funds in order to identify reasons for the lack of demand.


An on-line survey was developed and distributed to assess possible reasons why members do not select ESG investment options. In total, 549 Australian superannuation fund members responded to the survey.


Results indicate that the majority of superannuation fund members are interested in ESG investing. Members lack awareness of their fund’s approach to ESG investing, and they do not perceive there to be a financial penalty from ESG investing. Finally, members show a preference for consideration of governance issues over both social and environmental issues.

Research limitations

Respondents are well educated and the majority did not choose their superannuation fund. There was no measure of financial literacy included in the research instrument. There is also a general limitation in surveying superannuation fund members when they lack knowledge about superannuation.

Practical implications

The results indicate that superannuation members are interested in both superannuation and ESG investing. Given the low take-up of ESG investment options, this finding raises the question of how effectively funds are engaging their members.

Social implications

The results should be of interest to superannuation funds and may lead to renewed interest in promoting ESG products.


This is the first study to examine superannuation members’ attitudes and behaviours towards ESG investing in the context of superannuation. The study also adds to our understanding of member decision making in the $1.8 trillion superannuation industry.

Impact and interest:

3 citations in Scopus
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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 79587
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: ESG investing, Superannuation, Members, Institutional Investing, Responsible Investing, Pension Funds
DOI: 10.1108/SAMPJ-03-2014-0017
ISSN: 2040-8021‎
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > ACCOUNTING AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY (150100) > Sustainability Accounting and Reporting (150106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > ACCOUNTING AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY (150100) > Accounting Auditing and Accountability not elsewhere classified (150199)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Emerald Group Publishing
Copyright Statement: This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited. - See more at:
Deposited On: 21 Dec 2014 23:21
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2015 00:57

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