UCS Goes Fossil Free

, former president | June 18, 2015, 3:23 pm EDT
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When you work for the Union of Concerned Scientists, you learn quickly that we walk the walk when it comes to caring for the environment. Our offices are all energy efficient. We not only recycle our paper products but compost our leftovers at lunch. And every month feels like “Bike to Work Month.” Above all, we believe it’s important to follow our own advice.

So in 2013, when our Board of Directors realized that our investment portfolio included some holdings in fossil fuel companies, we knew we had to act. While UCS has never directly invested in any fossil fuel companies, we learned that some of our funds, even some of the organization’s so-called “sustainability funds,” included small holdings in fossil fuel companies.

After a thorough review and reinvestment of our assets, I’m proud to announce that we have essentially divested from all fossil fuel companies. Our stock holdings are now more than 98 percent fossil-fuel free (and we’re committed to getting it even lower as more investment options become available). It took some research and a lot of expert advice, but our investment team of board member and advisors from Peirce Park came up with solutions that allowed UCS to divest from those holdings while continuing to use low-cost index funds that manage risk through diversification.

You can do it, too

I want to share our successful divestment experience not only to let our members know, but to flag for other organizations that divestment from fossil fuels is possible. Our experience shows that midsize organizations with conservative investment strategies can take these steps with no material change in risk or return objectives.

To determine our stakes in fossil fuel companies, our board relied on the Fossil Free Indexes LLC list of the top 200 investable companies, which identifies fossil fuel companies by their potential carbon emissions. Another resource is Fossil Free, a project from 350.org.

You can read more about our divestment experience here. Take a look, and ask your investment managers about whether your portfolio truly represents your organization’s values. It’s worth it: here at UCS, we’ve managed to divest from fossil fuels and maintain our commitment to our financial future.

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Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.

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  • neroden

    I’ve had problems divesting due to conglomerates, where a small fraction of the company is in the fossil fuel business, but I really want to invest in the rest of the company.

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  • It would be great to see a few pictures/videos of your employees biking to work. I take it everyone bicycles to work there — no-one drives? How are you going vis-a-vis powering your office exclusively via renewables?

    • Paul, at UCS we are making significant strides on our own fossil fuel use. Information on our website (www.ucsusa.org/about/our-sustainability-efforts)
      talks about some of those efforts, including monitoring of our own carbon footprint. In terms of employee commutes, we started from a good place: all of our offices are located right near public transportation. And we encourage low-carbon transportation, including biking (we just finished a bike-to-work month competition between our different offices).

      Your question about powering our offices is right on. We buy renewable energy to cover 100% of our electricity use, and, while we’ve just removed the almost-20-year-old solar array from our headquarters (for roof work), we’re replacing it with a much larger one. You can see more about our green offices here: http://www.ucsusa.org/about/our-green-headquarters.html.

      And we’ll keep looking for more ways to reduce fossil fuels from our operations, at the same time as we’re voting with our investment dollars.

  • l_nino

    It’s great that the offices are energy efficient and encourage composting and biking. In addition, the offices need to powered by rooftop or other onsite solar PV systems.