Adani's broker Marsh McLennan greenwashing its role in coal project
Climate groups have vowed to ramp up their campaign against Adani's insurance broker Marsh, after it published a one-page sustainability policy that included no mention of the controversial Carmichael coal mine.
Marsh, which arranges insurance policies for the Indian conglomerate's project in central Queensland, had told Australian investors earlier this month it would release a climate change policy at the annual general meeting of its parent company, US consulting giant Marsh & McLennan.
Investors and climate groups had hoped the policy would result in Marsh dropping its support of the Carmichael project in central Queensland, as well as other thermal coal mining activities.
In the event, the policy was a 180-word statement which contained only general comments on sustainability, and made no mention of any companies or any commitments to limit its involvement with fossil fuel projects.
It said Marsh & McLennan had "developed procedures to bolster our commitment to [the United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals", a list of 18 goals that includes a commitment to take "urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts".
"When considering proposed engagements that potentially conflict, in a fundamental way, with these goals, we will review the proposed project to evaluate whether the work can proceed, either as proposed or with appropriate limitations in scope or content," Marsh & McLennan's statement read.
A spokesman for Marsh & McLennan said this was the first such commitment made by a major global insurance broker, adding that while there was no mention of specifics, the policy would have real effects on which companies Marsh does business with.
He added that Marsh, which is the biggest insurance broker in the world, had adopted the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures guidelines, would publish an annual sustainability report starting in 2021, and had appointed a sustainability officer.
Local superannuation and funds management firm Australian Ethical, which had been pressuring Marsh to provide more information on its involvement in Adani, said it would consider the statement and review its investment in Marsh & McLennan.
"Australian Ethical expects responsible financial institutions to align their businesses with the Paris climate goals, and to disclose how they achieve that alignment," said the firm's head of ethics research Stuart Palmer.
Macquarie and AustralianSuper, the two biggest local investors in Marsh & McLennan with $1.09 billion and $280 million invested in the company respectively according to NASDAQ figures, declined to comment on whether they had engaged Marsh on its involvement with Adani. A Macquarie spokeswoman said the bank had no direct involvement in the Carmichael mine.
An AustralianSuper spokesman said: "For members who want the choice to invest, we offer the Socially Aware option – which does not hold Marsh & McLennan – and the Member Direct option."
Friends of the Earth subsidiary Market Forces dismissed Marsh & McLennan's statement as "a pathetic attempt at greenwashing".
"A real climate policy would seek to align Marsh & McLennan Companies to the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees," Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait said.
"This would include an immediate end to brokering insurance for new coal, oil and gas projects, and set dates for the phase out of services for all fossil fuel projects and companies, as many of Marsh's insurance industry customers are doing."
Unfriend Coal campaign co-ordinator Peter Bosshard said: "Marsh has laid bare its hypocrisy by claiming to bolster its commitment to climate mitigation while helping to facilitate climate wrecking coal projects like Adani’s. If Marsh’s statement is to be taken seriously they should dump Adani as a client."
Market Forces' campaign to stop banks, insurers, engineers and construction companies supporting the Carmichael project has been highly successful, with almost 70 major global companies issuing statements distancing themselves or ruling out any involvement in the project. They include major Australian banks Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ, and insurers Suncorp and QBE.
A litany of international insurers and reinsurers, including Allianz, AXA, Generali, Zurich, Munich Re and Swiss Re have also placed restrictions on thermal coal mining, raising questions as to whether the project is yet fully insured.
An Adani spokesman declined to comment on its relationship with Marsh or any specific insurers, saying: "Details on insurance providers for the Carmichael Project are commercial in confidence however we have the requisite insurance requirements in place."
Originally published in the Australian Financial Review