UCS Goes Fossil Free

June 18, 2015
Ken Kimmell
Former contributor

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.