A Milestone for the Movement Pushing Philanthropy to Get Out of Fossil Fuel Stocks

More than a hundred trusts, foundations, and family offices with assets worth over $5 billion have signed the Divest Invest Philanthropy pledge to dump their fossil fuel investments. This global movement aims to align philanthropic investments to the averred goals of the foundations’ grantmaking, and it has a goal to procure fossil fuel divestment pledges from at least 200 philanthropic organizations by December 2015, when the United Nations will hold its Paris Climate Conference of Parties (COP21).

The effort has a dual thrust: to starve the fossil fuel industry of investment capital while promoting investments in renewable energy including solar, biomass, and wind that have the potential to literally change the landscape of the climate change debate. 

Existing signatories included the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (whose wealth flows from Standard Oil), Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund. We've predicted in the past that fossil fuel stock divestiture will eventually gain unstoppable momentum, as happened with previous divestment movements.

Related Falling Dominoes: Why More Large Foundations Will Divest From Fossil Fuels

The most recent European signatories of Divest Invest Philanthropy include the Roddick Foundation, Serve All Trust, and a number of trusts established by members of the Sainsbury family including Ashden Trust, JJ Charitable Trust, Mark Leonard Trust, Staples Trust, Tedworth Charitable Trust and Woodward Charitable Trust.

“We’re encouraged to see the Divest Invest movement gathering momentum across Europe. Inaction on this issue poses grave risks to trusts, foundations and family offices. These include the risk that fossil fuel investments become stranded due to policy change and / or the increasing competitiveness of alternative energy sources and the reputational risk posed by continued investment in companies that are accelerating climate change,” said Mark Sainsbury, Chairman of the Mark Leonard Trust.

The fossil fuel divestment movement is now tearing across pension funds, hospitals, cities, and universities. Organizations such as AXA, Europe’s second largest insurer, Stanford University, and Norway’s $800 billion sovereign wealth fund have also pledged divestment from fossil fuels stocks.

This latest announcement came quickly after Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, in which he painted global warming as a moral issue affecting not only one billion Catholics but every person on the planet. "Doomsday predictions," the Pope warned, "can no longer be met with irony or disdain."

His stance was echoed recently by the Dalai Lama, who said that when it came to fighting global warming, it was duty of everyone to “say more. We have to make more of an effort, including demonstrations.”