With more than 91 million Americans having $5.6 trillion invested in the five major fund families that control recordkeeping at 75 percent of all employer-sponsored retirement plans, you've got to figure that many people are investing in companies not aligned with their values. With divest from fossil fuel campaigns gaining significant momentum, even if you want to divest from carbon, how can you really be sure your money is invested in companies you want to see prosper?
Fortunately for people that want to make sure their money isn't underwriting the fossil fuel industry, a new free-to-the-public web tool is now available—FossilFreeFunds.org. Launched today by the shareholder advocacy nonprofit As You Sow, Fossil Free Funds is the first website that allows investors to compare mutual funds' holdings against the Carbon Underground 200 list—the 100 largest coal and 100 largest oil/gas companies—fossil-fired utilities and coal holdings. With a tool this powerful, people can now rest assured that their investments aren't contributing to climate change.
And, for those interested in joining the thousands of foundations and individuals, with assets totaling more than $50 billion, as of September 2014, to take the Divest-Invest pledge to decarbonize their investments, stripping these companies from one's portfolio is the minimum requirement.
“Since the beginning of the divestment movement, investors have been clamoring for transparency and a way to identify how they can use their portfolios to actively combat climate change," said Andrew Behar, As You Sow's CEO. “We developed FossilFreeFunds.org after we realized that our own 401(k) was composed of mutual funds that had major oil, gas and coal extraction companies—but we had no idea. We figured that if we didn't know, then probably no one did. This tool gives everyone the power to truly know what they own, so they can own what they own."
As You Sow uses Morningstar fund holding data in collaboration with Carbon Underground 200, Carbon Tracker Initiative, BrightScope and HIP investor. The online tool reveals where fossil fuel holdings are hiding in 1,500 of the most-held mutual funds. Since the five major fund families—including Fidelity, Vanguard and TIAA-CREF—do not offer any diversified mutual funds that are socially responsible and free of the 200 largest fossil fuel companies, consumers have lacked the information and transparency they need to make adequate decisions about where to invest their money.
“With comprehensive fund holdings data, we are able to provide greater transparency and help investors better evaluate the sustainable and ethical effect of their investments," said Joanna McGinley, head of global redistributor solutions for Morningstar. According to Julie Fox Gorte, senior vice president for sustainable investing at Pax World Management LLC, “There are many things investors can do to address the risks created by climate change, especially the risks created by combustion of fossil fuels. One is to avoid fossil fuel stocks."
Interested in going completely “fossil free" with your investments? Fossil Free Funds provides an easy-to-use platform which screens for coal, smaller oil/gas companies, service industries (e.g. Halliburton) and fossil-fired utilities.
As You Sow explains, "Funds that are clear of investments in a given segment earn a green badge. Funds can earn a maximum of five badges. Out of the 1,500 funds with the highest plan count, only 12 diversified and SRI funds have earned the five badge rating, including Parnassus Endeavor fund (PARWX), Portfolio 21 Global Equity (PORTX), USA Mutuals Barrier (VICEX), Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth (BAWAX), PAX World Growth (PXGAX), Green Century Balanced (GCBLX), Gabelli SRI (SRIGX) and Shelton Green Alpha (NEXTX)."
Here's an example of searching the SPDR S&P 500 ETF on FossilFreeFunds.org:
According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, 71 percent of active individual investors describe themselves as interested in sustainable investing, while nearly 65 percent believe sustainable investing will become more prevalent over the next five years, with millennials and women at the forefront of sustainable investing. The Fossil Free Funds tool helps empower these consumers to get to the bottom of where oil, gas and coal investments are hiding in their portfolios, so they can sell mutual funds that don't align with their objectives and reinvest in funds that do, or work with their financial advisors to divest and reinvest.
But what happens if employees options don't provide a fossil free alternative? Consumers can download a 401(k) toolkit to help them advocate with their retirement plan administrators to include fossil free investment options.
According to Fox Gorte, "At some point, fossil fuels will be stranded assets; this is already happening to coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Michael Bloomberg recently noted that in his blog, 'Obama Didn't Kill Coal, the Market Did.' Citigroup recently reported that if we are to limit future warming to 2ᵒ C, $100 trillion worth of fossil fuel reserves will become stranded assets. This won't happen overnight, but however it does, investors who are not prepared for it will wish they were."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.