Taking seriously the impact of fossil fuels

June 14, 2013

Long a leading participant in shareholder activism around climate change, United Church Funds appreciates the spirit of action evidenced by the 350.org campaign and its supporters, who are building an important pathway of movement forward on climate change awareness and legislation. One of the leaders in that campaign — and a driving force behind the resolution on fossil fuel divestment coming to General Synod 2013 — The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal is in conversation with the UCF Board of Directors.

Over the last decade, United Church Funds has partnered with other socially responsible investors, raising the alarm on climate change —

engaging in a series of discussions and dialogues with a range of climate change stakeholders
co-filing shareholder resolutions with oil companies concerning their greenhouse gas emissions targets
co-filing shareholder resolutions with natural gas companies concerning their hydraulic fracturing practices
co-filing shareholder resolutions with auto companies regarding their emissions standards

UCF’s Board of Directors and staff consider these direct engagements the bedrock practice of our socially responsible investing program — and essential to exhorting fossil fuel companies to take positive and serious action. At its October meeting, the Board formally reiterated its position that shareholder engagement and activism remain our primary means of ensuring that the message of justice — including environmental justice and the protection of Creation — continues to be heard in boardrooms across the country. (Click here for a copy of UCF’s Statement of Position Concerning the Use of Economic Leverage).

As the nature and perception of fiduciary duty evolves, United Church Funds continually balances our obligation to consider the range of perspectives and concerns our investors bring to their relationship with us. Some invest with us because of our socially responsible stand; others invest in spite of it, regularly prodding us to abandon screens in favor of higher returns on their endowments and more money for their ministries. We endeavor to respect General Synod resolutions, working actively to promote UCC values. When divestment proposals are brought forward, we necessarily move with caution — educating our board, assessing the progress of our engagement and activism, evaluating potential financial impacts on our portfolios, and exploring the range of possible responses.

We look forward to engaging with our colleagues both inside and external to the UCC as this important effort continues to take shape.

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