Click below to read past ConcordCAN columns in published the Concord Journal.

  • September 2017
    Yard Care is Due for a “Green” Revolution

  • April 2017
    ConcordCAN! Support for Town Meeting Articles

  • February 2017
    It’s Up to Us Now

  • October 2016
    Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World

  • September 2016
    It’s Not all About Energy: Bring Back Natural Ecosystems to Remove Atmospheric Carbon

  • June 2016
    The Unfortunate Truth about Natural Gas

  • December 2015
    Jobs, Justice, and Climate

  • October 2015
    The Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is Growing

  • July 2015
    Inside The Climate Denial Machine

  • March 2015
    Plastic and Rubber at Concord’s Town Meeting

  • January 2015
    Can We Talk “Dirt”

  • December 2014
    A Natural Gas Pipeline for Massachusetts?

  • November 2014
    Natural Gas - Not the “Clean” Transition Fuel

  • September 2014
    People’s Climate March: NYC Sept. 21

  • August 2014
    Local Food: Everyone Benefits

  • July 2014
    Good News for the Planet

  • May 2014
    Is Zero Waste Achievable for Concord?

  • April 2014
    Fossil Fuel Divestment Is Not Hypocritical

  • March 2014
    The Fiduciary Argument About Divestment

  • February 2014
    Climate Solutions: Changing The Way We Think To Create The World We Want

  • January 2014
    Divesting Fossil Fuels

  • December 2013
    Here Comes the Sun

  • November 2013
    Municipal Sustainability in Action

  • October 2013
    Climate Change is Real

  • September 2013
    It's Time For Climate Solutions

  • August 2013
    Celebrate Local Food

  • June 2013
    Water, Water Everywhere!...?

  • May 2013
    Safer Alternatives to Our Toxic Lifestyle

  • April 2013
    Municipal Sustainability in Concord

  • March 2013
    Look Beyond The Plastic

  • February 2013
    Your Solar Rooftop,Now

  • January 2013
    The Chilling Math of the Carbon Path

  • Columns

    The Fiduciary Argument About Divestment

    by Bob Andrews

    At the Concord Town Meeting this spring, voters will be asked to vote on Article 40, a citizen petition filed by ConcordCAN!’s Bob and Janet Lawson. The article urges the Town of Concord Retirement Board and the Town Treasurer to adopt policies to divest from existing investments in fossil fuel companies within five years and to preclude any new direct investments in fossil fuel companies in the future.

    ConcordCAN! sees divestment as a moral imperative, and an investment in the survival of life on this planet. The present column, however, focuses on one of the most commonly heard arguments against divestment-namely, that investment managers and trustees have “a fiduciary responsibility” to invest in the most financially beneficial and least risk-laden investment portfolio available.

    While the fiduciary argument seems very solid to many investment managers, the fossil fuel divestment movement has spread over the last twelve months, to over 300 colleges and universities, 100 cities and states, and dozens of religious institutions across the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. The fiduciary argument against divestment is being laid to rest, after due consideration, by many smart financial decision-makers. Admittedly, other esteemed institutions and municipalities have decided, after extensive dialogue and deliberation, that it is not prudent to divest. Intelligent people can disagree; and only you can decide what is prudent and satisfying for you, or your institution.

    People and institutions are understandably concerned about what will happen to their investment portfolios if fossil fuel holdings are discarded. Opponents of divestment argue that fossil fuels have, historically, been big winners for investors. The thought of making such a big winner taboo can be unsettling, or even frightening, for people who depend on their investment portfolios for financial security. Nowadays, though, financial managers and advisors are being asked to consider, if they are in touch with the reality of climate change, the probability that the seemingly limitless profits of the fossil fuel industry are not so unlimited after all, and that the value of portfolios loaded with fossil fuel stocks will very likely plunge through the floor in the near future because fossil fuel use seriously jeopardizes the survival of life as we know it. If that proves true, clinging to history may prove both financially and environmentally disastrous..

    The more divestment is studied, the more it looks like not only a morally sound position, but a wise financial move, as well. A study commissioned by the Associated Press earlier this year, for example, concluded that, “an endowment of $1 billion that excluded fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.26 billion over the past 10 years, but an endowment that included investments in fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.14 billion. That extra $119 million could pay for 850 four-year scholarships, assuming tuition of $35,000 per year.”

    The writer of this column is not, to say the least, a financial expert; he is a committed climate activist. Like you, however, I do want some convincing assurance that if I divest I can continue to have good returns from my investments. That is why I plan to attend a community forum on divestment on the evening of April 11, planned by supporters of Article 40. In addition to an explanation of why the article was submitted by the submitters, the forum will include two presentations about the risks and benefits of divestment by highly qualified financial and investment advisors. These speakers are:
    • Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy and Wealth for the Common Good
    • Stephanie Leighton of Trillium Asset Management Look for further details about this forum in the Concord Journal and other local media.

    Debbie Barr is a member of the ConcordCAN! Steering Committee.