Major Endowments Divest from Fossil Fuels

Saturday, February 15, 2014 (Listed under Environment)

STORY UPDATE: On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Suzanne Goldenberg (@suzyji) of The Guardian US, reported that managers of Harvard University's $33 billion endowment adopt UN-backed responsible investment rules:

News this January included many headlines on the fossil fuel divestment movement, with a particular emphasis on the 17 philanthropic endowments announcing their plans to exclude oil, coal and natural gas investments from their respective portfolios, collectively valued at $2 billion. The organizations cite mounting evidence that fossil fuel stocks are over-valued and that clean energy is proving to be a dynamic, game-changing opportunity for investors. By launching their Divest-Invest Campaign, the endowments are hoping to educate and guide institutional investors, pension fund managers, businesses, and investors to follow suit.

Ellen Dorsey, the Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund who spearheaded the campaign, explained that the decision to divest was based on logic. “If we own fossil fuels, we own climate change.”

Richard Woo, CEO of the Russell Family Foundation, reports that their decision to divest from fossil fuels had as much to do with accelerating the growth in renewable energy as protecting the long-term value of their investments.

The John Merck Fund is already 97% divested, according to its Chairwoman, Olivia Farr, who reports that since the transition began, the fund's value has grown 20%. In a related press release, the Fund's Executive Director, Ruth Hennig, explained the rationale behind their decision. “We are relying on a growing list of financial analyses that refute the conventional wisdom that divesting from fossil fuel stocks leads to greater risk or lower returns.”

And with assets over $300 million, The Schmidt Family Foundation also announced their decision to divest. The fund's “climate and energy initiatives” are focused on reducing the nation's “reliance on fossil fuels and accelerating the production and adoption of renewable energy.” Wendy Schmidt, the Foundation's President, is a prominent advocate for many environmental initiatives, including The Solutions Project, where groundbreaking leaders in science, business and culture are accelerating America's transition to clean energy.

The Solutions Project's just-released interactive map elegantly and succinctly identifies the customized mix of renewable energy sources required to power all 50 states for all purposes by 2050. “All purposes” includes a state's electricity, transportation, heating, cooling, and industrial power needs.

This game-changing energy map provides endowment officers the tools they need to keep up to pace with America's fast expanding 21st century clean energy economy.



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