Climate change is upending the traditional understanding of “fiduciary duty” for institutional investors. In addition to considering climate-related financial risk to their portfolios, pension fund managers and insurance company investors around the world are coming to realize that their “duty of care” includes working to provide a livable future for their beneficiaries, as articulated at the Global Climate Action Summit satellite meeting on “Climate Change and Fiduciary Duty” on Sept. 11 in Berkeley.
An outline of the program follows so that interested readers might follow the links to the speakers’ organizations:
What: A conversation about climate change and fiduciary duty, and the changing definition of fiduciary in this warming world.
Where: David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley 94704.
When: Tuesday, September 11, 2018 1:00 – 3:00 pm.
Panel 1: A conversation about fiduciary duty and climate change: The challenge for institutional investors
- Keynote and moderator: Bill McKibben, 350.org
- Catherine Howarth, CEO, ShareAction
- Ellen Dorsey, Wallace Global Fund
Panel 2: It’s happening! The shift to a new understanding of fiduciary duty
- Moderator and Keynote: Dan Zarrilli, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, New York City, Office of the Mayor
- Lisa Anne Hamilton, Center for International Environmental Law
- Casey Harrell, Senior Campaigner, The Sunrise Project (sponsor of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ insurance divestment resolution)
- California State Senator Ben Allen, author of SB 964
As if by design, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senator Allen’s bill, SB964 on “Public Employees’ Retirement Fund and Teachers’ Retirement Fund: investments: climate-related financial risk” on Sept. 23, 12 days after the meeting! Janet Cox, a leader of Fossil Free California in the forefront of the effort to persuade Calsters/Calpers to adopt a fossil free portfolio and an organizer of the event, sees passage of SB964 as a landmark in acknowledging the financial risk of investing in companies contributing to global warming and requiring the necessary due diligence in assessing the risks and returns of various alternative investments.
But also an opportunity for younger investors to invest in their own viable futures on our planet.
At the meeting we learned about other leaders that have reconfigured foundation endowments and pension funds to recognize risks and invest in opportunities for a fossil free future. For example, speaker Ellen Dorsey, CEO of the Wallace Global Fund in New York City, talked about her Fund’s decision almost 10 years ago to move all its pension fund investments from fossil fuels.
Climate pioneer Bill McKibben was so enthusiastic about these developments, saying how thrilled he is that fossil fuel divestment has gained so much momentum — more then he could have ever imagined when he first started on this path!
–Cynthia B. Lloyd
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