Leading super fund, Australian Super, commissioned The Ethics Centre to investigate whether its culture was aligned with its Ethical Framework. We applied our signature three step Everest process, to map, assess, benchmark and recommend improvements for their internal culture.


Australian Super needed to implement a future proof purpose statement that would orient work and stoke passion across all levels of their organisation.

Australian Super’s purpose is to provide the best retirement outcome for its members. While confident that it’s culture was strong and on the right track to deliver on its purpose, CEO Ian Silk wanted to validate that perception with a rigorous culture assessment.

The Ethics Centre were called in as an independent third party to undertake an ethical framework and cultural review.


The review found that Australian Super had a strong and aligned culture, but would benefit from key initiatives to charter its lived purpose and values into the future.

Our comprehensive review included surveying and interviewing staff and stakeholders across the business to identify if Australian Super’s operating culture supported its ethical framework. Positively, we found that Australian Super’s purpose statement did have meaning and clarity across the organisation.

We further identified key recommendations to support Australian Super as it considered its role and purpose in an evolving and complex future. These included a ‘Members First’ principle that was operating culturally, but not formally expressed in their Ethical Framework.


staff surveyed


interviews with Board members, senior executives and leaders


Four focus groups and one telephone interview with external stakeholders including business partners/suppliers, employers and advisers


staff focus groups

AustralianSuper CEO puts his company values to the test

Well known better business advocate and CEO of AustralianSuper, Ian Silk put his company to the test to see if they were living up to their values.

Ethics in business is a hot topic, particularly in the financial services sector where a slew of egregious behaviours have been well publicised in recent months.

“Everybody knows unethical behaviour when they see it and I think there is a move back to appropriate norms. I think there is a recognition that much of the bad behaviour in the financial services sector is wrong.” said Ian Silk, CEO of AustralianSuper.

Speaking with the Ethics Centre, Silk said it is difficult to discern if this revitalised interest in ethics is deeply-felt, or whether it is a protective measure to avoid getting caught and penalised.

In terms of standards in his own organisation, Silk said he had been confident that the culture and behaviours at AustralianSuper would stand up to scrutiny. This is partly because, as a member-organisation, its sole purpose is to act in the interest of members and this provides a de facto ethical framework, he says.

Silk’s commitment to respectful behaviours is well known. According to a recent report in the Australian Financial Review, every recruit to the organisation gets a one-and-a-half hour briefing from Silk on the fund’s four values.

“People who are rude to others are counselled and abusive language or behaviour is not tolerated and could be regarded as a sacking offence.”

However, earlier this year, he decided to put it to the test and get a second opinion. The Ethics Centre was engaged to undertake a “culture audit” to test whether the fund’s policies, procedures and practices were aligned with its purpose, values and principles.

“In my darkest moments, I just wondered if we had all drunk the Kool-Aid”, he says.

The results were gratifyingly positive and were affirmation that AustralianSuper and its 550 staff are on the right track, says Silk, who has led the fund since it was founded in 2006.

However, The Ethics Centre also found some areas for improvement, including a culture that could be “conflict averse”.

“We weren’t as robust as we might be. There was a tendency to avoid conflict in certain parts of the organisation, so we could introduce a bit more aggression into the organisation – aggression in a positive sense”, he says.

“Those areas where improvement opportunities were identified, we have consciously thought that we want to do something about that, we want to lift the standard in the organisation … so we have an action plan, we have done all the things that you might do with a business plan, we have identified all the particular areas, we have assigned responsibility to people, we are going to check in periodically to make sure progress has occurred.

“We haven’t just used it as a soft survey.”

It was early days when Silk sat down with The Ethics Centre to discuss the results of our report, but already he said progress has been noticed, such as more robust questioning in meetings.

“We are getting better outcomes as a result”, he says.