News Archives » Faith Responsible Investing
The Missionary Oblates, along with other ICCR members, are trying to limit climate-related risk by advancing research and dedicated investment in climate change solutions. These Climate Finance initiatives are being pursued by faith-based and socially responsible investors to propel the shift we need to a low-carbon economy.
What is lacking is a favorable policy environment that can ensure optimal risk-adjusted returns, which, investors, as fiduciaries, are required to achieve. As articulated in the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change (endorsed by 265 investors including ICCR, and representing $24 trillion in assets), private investment will only flow at the scale and pace necessary if it is supported by clear, credible and long-term policy frameworks that shift the risk-reward balance in favor of less carbon-intensive investment. For this reason, ICCR members are working with others in the investment community to press for the climate policy shifts that will unleash this flow of capital and drive clean energy investment. At the same time, members are seeking to educate the broader responsible investment community about both current and future climate finance opportunities.
Here are some examples of initiatives in which the Missionary Oblates have been active:
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Fossil Fuels: Divestment vs Engagement April 13th, 2015
Trying to shift the global economy away from polluting, dangerous fossil fuels that we use very day – to clean, renewable fuel sources that can power our economy well into the future, is a complicated task. While the rate of growth of renewable energy sources is increasing rapidly, it is still far behind what we need to avoid pushing past a 2degree limit on temperature increase. The climate change movement, 350.org, has spearheaded a movement to pressure institutions, from charitable Foundations to universities, to divest from stocks of fossil fuel companies. While there are good financial arguments for doing so, based on concern about stranded assets, there is also an argument to be made for continued engagement with oil and gas companies on climate change issues. Laura Berry, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), makes the case for engagement in a letter to the UK-based Guardian newspaper, in response to a recent article.
Here is her response:
“Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of more than 300 faith-based institutions representing more than $100bn in invested capital, have been engaging the fossil fuel industry to address climate change since before the term was coined. You could say they are gnarled veterans of shareholder engagement with an industry, like tobacco, that is “on the ropes” due to a product offering that continues to be in high demand yet is widely known to present clear public health risks. The conundrum responsible owners of these companies face is not new; it is a tension that they have faced for decades. The divest/engage debate fuelled by your article (Climate campaigners losing faith in value of engaging with fossil fuel firms, theguardian.com, 7 April), which seeks to oversimplify the issue and to divide climate activists, only underscores the complexities of the problem and the genuinely difficult tasks we all face in shifting the energy industry, and our economy, on to a more sustainable path. Is shareholder engagement difficult and slow? Most definitely. Is it enough? Of course not. But do we still believe engagement is a powerful tool for social change? We do.”
“Responsible investors are deploying all their tools – divestment, engagement and everything between – to advance green energy solutions because we believe multiple and collective, inside and outside strategies are needed for what is a herculean task. Is the cause best served by discrediting the methodologies of our allies or leveraging the complementarities? Should we focus on our tactical differences or concentrate our collective energies on our common climate change enemies: investor apathy and policy inertia? We propose the latter.”
Executive Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Faith-based investors applauded the decision by PNC Financial Services to stop financing coal company mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia.
The recent announcement by the Pittsburgh-based bank comes after a multi-year effort by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) to convince bank officials that financing such environmentally damaging operations poses significant financial risks and hastens climate change.
Mountaintop removal mining involves dynamiting the tops of mountains to expose rich coal seams hundreds of feet below ground. The resulting debris is then pushed into adjacent valleys, often blocking important headwater streams.
Lauren Compere, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, an ICCR partner which led the PNC effort, said conversations with bank officials took place over a four-year period and focused on the role banks can play in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. “When looking at our portfolio, coal mining is one of the red flags. One of the things we talk about with companies more generally is how are we supporting the transition to more sustainable energy sources,” explained Compere, a member of ICCR’s board of directors.
The ICCR effort has focused on the importance of managing risk because financing the coal industry is seen as risky, explained Oblate Father Seamus Finn, Chief of Faith Consistent Investing for the OIP Investment Trust, and ICCR Board Chair, who has been actively engaged with major banks on a variety of issues.
ICCR’s engagement on mountaintop removal mining is part of a broader effort by 80 international institutional investors managing $540 billion in assets to urge 63 banks to disclose their policies and practices related to climate change.
NAACP Releases Environmental Justice Classroom Resource Guide March 10th, 2015
Given the results of the latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the NAACP says we must ask ourselves some critical questions about how we prepare our children to face the world they will be inheriting, and the harsh truth of today’s conditions and dynamics. How do we ensure that our youth emerge from their studies with an understanding of the intersection between our social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental status in society? How do we teach them their role as influencers of what’s happening in their environment, now and in the future?
The reality of being a youth of color and/or a youth living in a low income community means that, due to socio-political marginalization, already one is more likely to be located next to a polluting facility and/or living in a county whose air quality is in violation of already lax federal standards. And, mnority youth are more likely to have the very building that houses their institution of learning built on toxic, contaminated land. We see how this plays out in high rates of asthma, attention deficit disorder, learning problems, and even violence, all of which are tied to exposure to toxins. We also see this result in missed days of school for children, missed days of work for parents who are sick themselves and/or caring for sick children, etc. We also see lower property values because of proximity to toxic facilities, which means under-resourced schools and compromised education. These youth are caught in a cycle of pollution, illness, poor education, negative interactions with the criminal justice system, and economic blight, which detracts from youth’s ability to achieve and their families’ capacity to thrive.
Oblate JPIC Signs Letter to US Congress Opposing Fast Track Authority for Trade Agreement March 2nd, 2015
On February 17, Missionary Oblates JPIC office joined in an interfaith letter signed by nearly three-dozen faith communities to oppose fast-track authority for the passage of an upcoming international trade agreement by Congress. The letter has been sent to all Members of the US Congress. Fast-Track authority paves the way for Congressional approval of trade agreements such as the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with little or no debate, and with no changes possible to the agreement that has been negotiated by the US Trade Representative, largely behind closed doors. This is an undemocratic process, which potentially denies a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of trade agreement provisions on vulnerable communities, workers and the environment, and which does not provide for detailed public hearings, despite the potential for significant public impacts.
Members of the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investments who signed the letter write, “Our faith traditions call for community participation in the democratic process because we believe this is the only way to ensure all people have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the creation of good policies. “Fast track” is a broken and undemocratic process because it privileges the views of powerful global corporations in defining the terms of trade agreements, while excluding voices of those adversely impacted. This impedes progress towards a more just world.”
Engaging for Impact March 2nd, 2015
Why Do Faith-based Shareholders Engage Mining Companies?
The Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI was interviewed recently by SUSTAIN, a publication of the International Finance Corporation, a lending arm of the World Bank that focuses exclusively on the private sector. The IFC is interested in how the Church has engaged in recent years with the extractives industry. Fr. Finn has been centrally involved in high-level meetings called by the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury with mining CEOs and faith-based representatives to discuss ways to increase respect for the rights of, and lessen the impact of mining operations, on local communities. He is Director of Faith-Based Investing for the Oblate International Pastoral (OIP) Investment Trust, and Executive Director of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG)
Some of the questions asked in the interview are: “Why should the church care about extractives?”, “Why social justice through investment?”, and “Is there a way to secure societal fairness? Is it always a dynamic or is there a sweet spot?”