The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has appointed Louise Davidson as its new chief executive.

She is taking over the role from Gordon Hagart who is returning to Europe.

Davidson said she was delighted to join such an influential organisation’s at an important part in its development, particularly as there was growing recognition of the key role that ESG issues play in the success of companies in which ACSI’s members invest.

“ACSI is in a very strong position in terms of sheer weight of capital that it represents when talking to listed companies,” Davidson said. “The work that ACSI does is some of the most exciting in the superannuation industry at the moment, we are really at the beginning of understanding active ownership by superannuation funds in Australia.”

Davidson’s view is that companies that really take account of ESG issues are going to be the success stories of the future, which will ultimately benefit the members of the super funds.

“A focus on ESG is a good way of mitigating risk in an investment sense, because often companies that properly fail to take account of environmental, social and governance issues run into problems with one of those issues which can cause valuation impact.”

She added that the long-term investing nature of super funds is a driver of a greater long-term move at listed companies, giving opportunity for them to consider their approach to ESG issues.

Davidson has served as Cbus’ ESG investment manager for the past six years. She also has institutional investment experience through IFM Investors and facilitating investor collaboration through her roles as chair of the PRI Australia Network and secretary of the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC).

Additionally she is the long-standing chair of the Mother’s Day Classic fun run for breast cancer research, which she co-founded with the late Mavis Roberston.

Cbus’ chief investment officer Kristian Fok said he was sorry to see her leave as it was a loss for the fund, but was supportive of her appointment to ACSI as she would make a “very good” chief executive. Fok added that Davidson will assist Cbus as it draws up the requirements for an appropriate ESG replacement as the role has evolved since she started.

ACSI has 31 Australian member funds who collectively manage more than $400 billion in assets on behalf of over eight million Australian superannuation fund members and retirees. ACSI also had six international members, bringing the total member funds under management to more than $1.6 trillion in assets on behalf of more than 18 million beneficiaries.