One definition of the word "irony" is something which appears to be something on the surface but, in actuality, is radically different. Doing one thing, while meaning the opposite, is an example of irony.
It would certainly be ironic if New Zealanders were fully aware the palm oil products they refuse to put in their shopping trolleys had been produced with assistance from their own KiwiSaver investments.
While large swathes of us have embraced ethical behaviour in many areas of our lives, it appears an incongruence for an estimated $4 billion of our KiwiSaver money to be helping underwrite controversial companies such as weapons makers, gambling operators and food producers using genetically modified organisms.
Our apparent indifference over the double standards with "sin stocks" were exposed this week by former Green Party MP Barry Coates, who has launched Mindful Money, which breaks down the investments in KiwiSaver's 260 funds and shows people what percentage of their fund is invested in 10 controversial areas.
The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.
Mindful Money found KiwiSaver funds invested heavily in controversial areas such as $14.4m in tobacco, $26.9m in alcohol, $261m in gambling, $1.16b in fossil fuels, $183.5m in weapons, and $9m in palm oil.
Twelve years after its launch, KiwiSaver has close to three million members and more than $50 billion invested.
It could well be some want their money in growth assets as a priority, do not mind the involvement of the so-called "sin stocks", and would rather not know. It may well also be that some know their KiwiSaver money is invested in weapons makers or palm oil production and that is fine with them.
It is certainly the case, however, that many KiwiSaver members will be unaware of what their money is up to, and that is disappointing.
The Folaus, faith and freedom of speech: what we should all remember
There is no excuse for not knowing.
All KiwiSaver providers have to comply with New Zealand law. They have to disclose whether they take environmental, social and governance considerations into account in their investment policies and procedures, and they have to comply with some restrictions on investments in weapons. For example, KiwiSaver providers have to comply with The Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act 2009, which makes it an offence to knowingly invest in the development or production of cluster munitions.
More and more information is being given to KiwiSaver members, but the challenge remains how to get people to apply it – making both the investment decisions for best possible retirement and in keeping with their values.
To profess being appalled at reading of the latest armed conflict in the Middle East while having shares in the manufacturer of the weapons being deployed could resemble hypocrisy. French philosopher Albert Camus wrote: "The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."
Given the vagaries of the performance of markets, it would be wrong to assume these so-called "sin stocks" are always high performing with stellar returns.
There is every likelihood some New Zealanders are living out thoroughly ethical lives and making all the right consumer choices for a better world while - unknowingly - their KiwiSaver fund is performing poorly with investments in rainforest-clearing, palm oil-raising endeavours.
That wouldn't be irony. It'd be idiocy.