Divest Invest

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As some of the oldest and most influential institutions in the world, religions have a crucial role to play as we shift towards a low-carbon future. The overarching objective of the Divest-Invest movement is to mobilize private and public capital to speed the global energy transition away from carbon intensive fossil fuels and into clean and sustainable forms of energy compatible with a safe climate. 

Divestment has a long history with religious communities and their involvement in finance is not a new issue. Quakers and Methodists have long recognised the relevance of biblical teachings to their business and investment approaches.The Methodists set up the Pax World Fund in 1971 taking a negative screening approach to investment. Faith investors could be considered the third largest group of investors in the world (UN 2009) and the role and prominence of religious organisations in responsible investment (RI) and shareholder engagement is on the rise. In Austria, religious organisations and charities are the second biggest institutional investors after pension funds, while in Germany they represent the largest institutional investors (Eurosif 2010).

Since 2013, a growing number of religious organisations have divested from fossil fuels and have begun reinvesting their portfolios into clean energy solutions. Since 2013, the Church of Sweden, the United Church of Christ, the New South Wales Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, The World Council of Churches, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Union Theological Seminary, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Episcopal Church, the Church of England, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the University of Dayton (a Catholic, Marianist University based in the US), the United Church of Canada, the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church,  and over one hundred other faith-based institutions committed to divest from fossil fuel holdings, or from holdings  in the coal or tar sands sectors of the fossil fuel industry. By late 2015, 126 religious institutions with assets of over US$24 billion had committed to some form of divestment.

In June 2016, four Australian Catholic orders jointly and publicly divested from coal, oil and gas. See their open letter here. More Catholic divest commitments are expected later in 2016.

However, the overwhelming majority of divest from fossil fuel commitments have been from Christian churches in the Global North.  It is important that a more diverse range of faith groups become involved – religiously and geographically and endorse the Invest/Reinvest agenda. That said, Islamic finance is well established and has attracted increasing attention and there is a growing interest in the Buddhist approach to economics, a movement inspired particularly by the work of Sulak Sivaraksa (Sivaraksa 2011). 

Simple steps to take:

  1. Stop investing in climate change.
  2. Drop coal, oil and gas from your investment portfolio.
  3. Roll a portion of your portfolio into climate solutions like clean energy, sustainable agriculture, local business and many more.

Faith Divest Resources

  • In late 2012, GreenFaith initiated the Divest & Reinvest Now! Campaign to provide support and resources to mobilize faith communities to support fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment in a clean energy future – see here for further information.
  • Australian Religious Response to Climate Change – see here for further information
  • Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility – see here for further information
  • As You Sow – see here for further information

 The Divest Invest Wider Movement

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In just three short years, the fossil-free Divest Invest movement has grown from its beginnings on a few U.S. college campuses to a global phenomenon that is accelerating our transition to a clean energy future. In 2015, over 500 organizations worth more than US$3.4 trillion pledged to divest – the scale of the Divest-Invest movement in 2015 was without precedent. Some participants have been moved to act purely by ethical and moral concerns, others by considerations of sound financial management. All have recognized the urgent need for a global shift away from fossil fuels and the essential role of public and private investment in driving that transition.

Some Resources

  • Divest Invest Philanthropy – see here for further information
  • Wallace Global Fund – see here for further information
  • 350.org – see here
  • Carbon Tracker Initiative – see here