Malvern, PA: Eight Quaker climate activists arrested at investment firm Vanguard’s headquarters

cross-posted from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Members of the Quaker group, Earth Quaker Action Team, protest at Vanguard headquarters in Malvern on Wednesday.

Eight Quaker climate activists were arrested Wednesday after protesting at Vanguard’s main headquarters in Malvern. The group sought a meeting with the investment company’s stewardship executive, while drawing focus to the firm’s record on environmental issues.

“We still haven’t seen Vanguard hold companies accountable,” said Christina Tavernelli, EQAT research team chair. “BlackRock has a coal-exclusion policy, while Vanguard does not.”

Together, BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street manage roughly $20 trillion and vote at least 25% of shares across the S&P 500. This gives the firms an outsized influence to shape corporate behavior, according to Earth Quaker Action Team, known as EQAT, a group of climate activists based in Philadelphia.

EQAT hopes to see Vanguard better integrate climate justice into their business decisions, including phasing out investments in companies that rely on coal, excluding fossil fuels from investments, and committing that 100% of the money they manage will go toward zero-emissions by 2050.

Investment portfolios are the latest political football. Trillion-dollar asset managers are now targets of both left- and right-leaning political activists. Progressives claim firms managing trillions of dollars in assets should push the underlying portfolio companies harder to address climate change; political conservatives, meanwhile, claim that doing so could hurt returns for mom-and-pop retirees, who are trying to save as much as possible.

A mixed bag for investment firms

The reality of ESG investing — an acronym for environmental, social and governance issues — is complicated. Each firm claims a varying level of commitment to climate policy.

To sort through the noise, a nonprofit called As You Sow runs a free database called FossilFreeFunds.org that ranks all funds on Wall Street by environmental measures. Some Vanguard funds rank very highly — such as the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, which earned an “A” grade — while others in the index fund category receive low or even “F” grades.

“Vanguard is known for being this very large index fund provider, which doesn’t actively stock pick companies in their index funds,” said Daan Van Acker, program manager for InfluenceMap, an international firm that compiles data on how business and finance are influencing climate issues. “As a result, stewardship on climate issues isn’t a focus.”

Stewardship is the use of influence by institutional investors to maximize overall long-term value. Activists have expanded that to include common economic, social and environmental factors.

When compared to Vanguard, BlackRock’s CEO and stewardship staff “have been more vocal [on climate issues]. BlackRock in recent years has published case studies that are available for anyone to read,” Van Acker said.

“Vanguard claims to have engaged on climate issues but not specifically on the process or the outcomes,” he said. “Fidelity is a little worse. They don’t do much around climate at the moment.”

InfluenceMap gave BlackRock a grade of “B”-minus, Vanguard a “C”, and Fidelity a “D” for engagement with climate issues.

Pushback by both sides

EQAT’s action Wednesday wasn’t its first. In April, the group pressured Vanguard with a weeklong march highlighting its holdings in coal, oil, gas, and other polluting industries as “a major driver of climate destruction and environmental racism.”

Groups such as EQAT want Vanguard to phase out thermal coal from all portfolios, with a priority on any firms still expanding coal mines or coal power capacity. Conservatives want hands off, said Van Acker.

And conservatives now are waging their own battle against what they allege is “woke” portfolio management, a direct response to such groups as EQAT.

In August, a group of more than a dozen attorneys general in Republican-leaning states signed a letter to BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink, suggesting that changing portfolios based on climate change inherently prevented shareholders from the best returns.

BlackRock “appears to use the hard-earned money of our states’ citizens to circumvent the best possible return on investment,” the letter stated. “BlackRock’s past public commitments indicate that it used citizens’ assets to pressure companies to comply with international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.”

BlackRock was first out of the gate marketing ESG investing, said University of Delaware professor Charles Elson, who edits the magazine Directors & Boards.

Elson, however, doesn’t think the investing firms should be moved by political causes. “Using other people’s money to further a position you find appealing is problematic,” he said.

“Coal is still legal in this country. A retirement plan’s obligation is to maximize the value for those who invest,” he continued.Once it becomes a tool to promote social change, the corporation is the wrong place for that. It should be happening at the governmental level.”

Looking ahead

Vanguard in August said it would launch another new ESG fund as part of a series aimed at socially responsible investing. The Vanguard Global Environmental Opportunities Stock Fund will hold a concentrated portfolio of companies that are involved in decarbonization and that derive at least half of their revenue from activities deemed by the fund’s adviser to contribute positively to environmental change.

On Wednesday, the eight EQAT members were arrested for trespassing on Vanguard property and taken to the Tredyffrin Township police station. They were released but told they would be charged with misdemeanors, which has yet to happen, said EQAT spokeswoman Eileen Flanagan.

Reflecting on Vanguard’s new ESG funds, Flanagan said: “That’s positive, but it’s not stewardship. It’s not what they pledged: to engage with companies to mitigate climate change. ESG funds don’t take the place of using their influence at Exxon to change course.”

Vanguard did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday’s events.

San Francisco Bay Area: Climate Activists Crash JPMorgan Chase’s Corporate Challenge Race

photo cred: Jade Northrup

cross-posted from Oil and Gas Action Network

CONTACT: Piper • 408-202-9416 • pipermcn4climate@gmail.com

BREAKING: Climate Activists Crashed JP Morgan Corporate Challenge Race

Protesters challenged the largest funder of the fossil fuel industry.

SAN FRANCISCO —Activists at the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge foot race on September 20 in San Francisco aimed to raise public awareness and demanded that Chase stop lending billions annually to the oil and gas industry. Protesters entered the race course and raised a 30 foot banner reading “CHASE Stop Funding Fossil Fuels” in front of the finish line. Activists on kayaks with banners off the 3rd street bridge, a large “Chase Bank” facade set up along the course with a pipeline spilling black water “oil” out the front, banners along the race course, and street theater characters all sent the message to participants that Chase must end all investment in fossil fuels.

The action included an art gallery where photojournalist and Paradise resident Allen Myers, displayed his photos of friends and family standing in the ashes of their homes. Myers said, “I’ve watched the climate change in my lifetime. We know climate change played a role in the Camp fire. These photos show the face of the climate crisis and that it is here, right now in California, and the companies funding this crisis have got to be stopped.”

“Letters and other polite requests have not worked,” noted Alec Connon of Stop the Money Pipeline, a coalition of more than 230 organizations. “We feel it is vital to make life uncomfortable for JP Morgan Chase at public events in order to stop their funding of the climate chaos that is rapidly becoming a disaster for us all.”

JP Morgan Chase is the world’s largest fossil fuel banker. In the six years

photo cred: Peg Hunter

after the Paris Agreement was adopted in late 2015, Chase provided nearly $382 billion to fossil fuel corporations that are building coal mines, oil pipelines and fracked gas terminals ? that’s 36% more than any other bank in the world.

“We’re part of a global movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground. People power is fighting to keep money out of Big Oil,” said Leah Redwood, an organizer with Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area. “We are seeing the impact of the Climate Emergency – floods, heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise – every day. Cutting the supply of money to the fossil fuel industry will cut off the oxygen that is fueling this global disaster and will give us all a fighting chance.”

Participating activist organizations include:

  • 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations
  • 350 Bay Area
  • 350 Seattle
  • Diablo Rising Tide
  • Direct Action Everywhere
  • Extinction Rebellion SF Bay Area
  • Oil and Gas Action Network
  • Regenerating Paradise
  • Rich City Kayaks
  • Silicon Valley Climate Action Now
  • Stop the Money Pipeline
  • Sunrise Bay Area
  • Third Act Sacramento

#JPMCC #ChaseClimateChallenge

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PODCAST: Dousing the BBC’s Fake News Before It Can “Burn Wild” w/ Daniel McGowan

cross-posted from the Green and Red Podcast

The BBC has released a new podcast series called “Burn Wild.” It tells the story of radical environmental movements 20 years ago, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the subsequent “Green Scare.” There is much flawed analysis in the series to say the least. Other critiques include the juxtaposition of right-wing extremists and left-wing “extremism,” the imbalance of law enforcement and industry voices in the series and platforming ELF member turned snitch Chelsea Gerlach (without discussing her cooperation with the feds).

Listen in: https://apple.co/3RZTOHg

In our latest, we discuss the BBC’s series (or at least the first two episodes) with former ELF member, and return G&R guest, Daniel McGowan (@support_daniel). We discuss the series, how liberals make heroes of the FBI, the current media discuss around “climate sabotage and more.

About Daniel//
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from Queens, NY.
He was part of two ELF actions in 2001. And arrested as part of Operation Backfire. He was charged in 2005 with 15 counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all related to two actions in Oregon in 2000, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). On June 4, 2007, McGowan was sentenced to seven years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution. He served part of his time in a super secret prison unit called Communication Management Unit, or CMU.

SF and NYC: Climate Fighters Disrupt Private Equity Event Demanding End to Fossil Finance!!

cross-posted from Oil and Gas Action Network

Climate fighters in the Bay Area crashed the “Responsible Investment Forum” in San Francisco – demanding that Private Equity and ESG stop funding the Climate Crisis.

In New York City, more climate and social justice fighters showed up at private equity conference demanding that retirement funds for teachers, nurses and firefighters NOT be used to fund fossil fuel projects.

 

From the Private Equity Stakeholder Project:

“Private equity is buying up excessive amounts of fossil fuel assets – oil wells, pipelines, power plants, operating them out of the public eye and exploiting gaps and loopholes in regulation.

The billions of dollars private equity firms are spending to drill, frack, and burn fossil fuels stand in stark contrast to what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. The health and well-being of communities of color are particularly affected by the environmental harms of their polluting fossil fuel assets right now.

To make matters worse, private equity is investing in climate chaos using the retirement money of millions of workers – including teachers, nurses, and firefighters in public service jobs – putting the retirement savings of ordinary people at risk as society seeks to move beyond fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.

As other financial actors like banks, insurance companies or utilities attempt to shed polluting assets, private equity asset managers have bought them and operated these fossil fuel assets out of the public eye and beyond the oversight of financial regulators.”