As part of our Responsible Ownership approach, we have in place an exclusion framework which means we do not invest in certain industries.

Our investments exclusion framework includes extensive research and active engagement with the companies we invest in. This is done to identify industries or sectors that are inconsistent with our responsible ownership philosophy and primary purpose – to deliver strong long-term investment returns while creating a positive impact for our members, their communities and the broader society.

Read our Responsible Investment Policy

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Our responsible ownership philosophy is to be a force for good, shaping the best outcomes for member, their families and their communities. 

What are the industries we don’t invest in?

  1. Companies involved in the manufacture of tobacco or cigarettes
    It is well-documented that we were one of the first super funds, in 2012, to divest of these companies, setting a precedent in the industry. 

  2. From 1 October 2020 Aware Super will exclude thermal coal
    This means no new investments in this sector across our entire investment portfolio, marking an important first step in our ongoing response to climate change, and preparing our investment portfolio to transition to a low-carbon future.

  3. From 1 October 2020 we have excluded controversial weapons
    This includes any company involved in the manufacturing or production of chemical weapons, cluster munitions, land mines and depleted uranium. This also means no new investments in this sector across our entire investment portfolio.

Climate Change Portfolio Transition Plan

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“We do not make decisions to divest from businesses or sectors lightly. But to deliver for our members and be a true force for good in our community, we must respond to the risks posed by climate change and establish a clear roadmap for the future.”

– Deanne Stewart, CEO.

More about our responsible investment exclusions



Driven by our members first approach and a desire to use our influence as a large investor to improve the world we live in, we were one of the first large super funds that decided to not invest in companies involved in the manufacture of tobacco or cigarettes.

As a Tobacco-Free fund we exclude direct investments in companies that derive 5% or more of their revenue from the manufacture and/or production of cigarettes and other tobacco related products.

We’re committed to this approach because the stats on tobacco are startling. With an estimated 15,000 tobacco-related deaths per year, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in Australia.2 Globally, it is estimated there will be 1 billion preventable tobacco-related deaths in the 21st century, a 900% rise from 100 million in the 20th century.3

Our analysis at the time of divestment indicated there would be inconsequential financial impact from this decision for members’ investment returns. This adds to the decision that the exclusion of direct tobacco investments from our portfolio was the right thing to do. 

1. Due to the complexity of financial markets it is acknowledged that as a matter of practicality that some organisations will have a residual tobacco holding.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

3. Howard V. Koh from the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School.

Thermal Coal 

We announced we are divesting from thermal coal in July 2020 as part of a comprehensive plan to respond to the long-term risks of climate change.

As a long-term investor, climate change poses one of the most significant risks to members’ retirement savings and we believe it’s critical to act now to protect member interests.

‘A lot has changed over the past five years, so our response also needs to change. It is critical that as responsible owners we set strong, ambitious and transparent targets to deliver the kind of action we need now to prepare for a low-carbon future.’ – Deanne Stewart, CEO.

Our decision to divest from thermal coal is an important first step in preparing for a low-carbon future. It helps in our overall plan to formalise our response to carbon change and establish strong and meaningful targets for how we can deliver real and lasting change.

Controversial weapons

At Aware Super, integrating ESG in the investment process does not mean excluding particular companies on ethical grounds. Rather, it means including the impact of ESG issues on company valuations. Our investment approach has not been to exclude particular companies or sectors, but use engagement and proxy voting to influence the behaviour of companies we invest in.

There are some circumstances, however, where it's appropriate to consider exclusions of a sector or a specific stock. These circumstances include: 1) where there is a negative impact on the reputation of the fund, 2) when there are breaches of international treaties or conventions, and 3) if we cannot influence a company through engagement.

Importantly, all three circumstances have led the Aware Super board to approve exclusions relating to controversial weapons.