Environmental activist and author, Naomi Klein (who some say has ‘sold out’ to corporate green by joining forces with 350.org – but that’s another story…) wrote a stunning piece in the Guardian recently, titled “The giants of the green world that profit from the planet’s destruction”.
In essence, she writes about a new environmental movement that has started, mainly at colleges and universities in the USA, demanding that their public interest institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuels. The movement is now spreading to the UK and other countries.
The Fossil Free movement has already claimed some victories, with institutions changing the portfolio of their endowments away from fossil fuels.
Their mission statement is clear and impressive: “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels.” I for one, will not argue against that.
This year, Fossil Free UK launches with the same aims, and even before things has started, University College London has already started to divest.
But, as Naomi explains, there is one group of organisations that should also be targeted – environmental organisations! On the face of it, environmental organisations should have a good handle on climate change and the relationship to fossil fuel use. And indeed the very companies who are mining/drilling/extracting etc fossil fuels are the ones those environmental groups have their campaign eyes on.
The problem is that those environmental groups raise vast sums of money each year to fund their campaigns, and whilst they amass money, they often invest spare funds in endowments which are often linked to the very same fossil fuel industry they campaign against.
The sums of money are not insignificant. In the USA, Nature Conservancy has £900 million invested in public traded securities. The Wildlife Conservation Society has a £240 million endowment, and WWF (World Wide Fund-US) has £125 million.
Some groups are clean though and specifically don’t invest in fossil fuel, including Greenpeace, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and Rainforest Action Network.
Although strictly speaking not an environmental group per sé, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has around £620 million in ExxonMobil and BP, companies that through their actions are causing or accelerating many of the problems the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are supposed to helping.
It is shameful that many of the worlds largest conservation and environmental organisations are being run by accountants and bean-counters. I appreciate that in this day and age, you do need money to run campaigns, but it is crazy beyond belief to be getting into bed with the very organisation you are supposed to be fighting. How does it work when you want your enemies to continue to be successful so your investments give a good return.
These environmental groups cannot hide behind pathetic excuses of investment managers and not really knowing what’s going on. It must be easy to set criteria (as other groups do) that prohibit investment in certain industries.
Just another example of the crazy world we live in.
See the full article on The Guardian.
Image is copyright free from Flickr.