Portland City Council Votes to Cease Investments in Corporate Bonds

Portland’s foray into Socially Responsible Investing ended on April 5th with the City Council deciding it was too much time and trouble, at least that’s the impression this observer came away with.

When the City Treasurer’s proposed Investment Policy came before Portland City Council we were there, many of us wearing orange, with our orange divestment ‘wavies.’ Alongside us was the Occupy Free Portland Coalition, opposing the Treasurer’s proposal to dissolve the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Committee and to instead rely solely on a Wall St. firm’s inadequate rating system. We were also advocating for adding Wells Fargo and Caterpillar to the do-not-buy list (The Treasurer’s proposed policy named the Carbon Tracker 200, as well as Walmart, as securities that would not be purchased so we didn’t need to advocate this time for fossil fuel divestment).

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A Short History of Fossil Fuel Divestment and the City of Portland (and how it became a Socially Responsible Investment issue)

July 19, 2012 Rolling Stone publishes Bill McKibben’s Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, making the case for keeping 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground to try to keep the global rise in temperature below 2°C.

November 8, 2012, Bill McKibben speaks in Portland on the second day of his national Do the Math tour launching the fossil fuel divestment campaign.

June 3, 2013 350PDX meets with Commissioner Fritz to discuss fossil fuel divestment. Comm. Fritz agrees to support.

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Background on the Portland Socially Responsible Investment Committee

The Socially Responsible Investment Committee spent a year discussing what companies should be on the City’s do-not-buy list with criteria of concerns about the environment, health (including weapons production), abusive labor practices, impacts on human rights, extreme tax avoidance and exercise of such a level of market dominance so as to disrupt normal competitive market forces.

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Critique of Proposed Investment Policy

On April 5th, Portland will consider changing its investment policy, abandoning the Socially Responsible Investment Committee [SRIC] and adopting a new proposal from Treasurer Jennifer Cooperman. This proposal is inadequate, nontransparent, unaccountable and would contradict Portland’s position as a sanctuary city.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Needs Your Support! Date changed to April 5

The Portland City Council is considering renewing fossil fuel divestment, but needs some support from the community! Please call or email Portland City Council to ask them to continue the city’s divestment from the Carbon Underground 200, 100 coal companies and 100 gas and oil companies with the largest reserves, and affirm the recommendation of the Socially Responsible Investments Committee to place Amazon, Caterpillar, Nestle, and Wells Fargo on the City’s Do-Not-Buy list.

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The Divestment Team is more than Divestment!

In fact, we changed our name to Divestment/Reinvestment several months ago. We still work on divestment–currently we are engaged with the Cities of Portland and Milwaukie, Lewis & Clark College and Catlin Gabel School, among others, and have a new campaign to divest PERS, the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System–but a lot of our energy and interest has turned to reinvestment, especially Community Solar.

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Foundation Divestment moves ahead–and you can help move it further

metro-group-shotThis summer saw great advancement in the divestment of Washington and Oregon foundations.

In June the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation (MRG) made the fossil fuel divestment pledge at the request our the 350PDX Divestment – Reinvestment Team. MRG is now fully divested.

MRG said, “The Board of Directors committed to keeping our investments fossil free. They reaffirmed our longstanding commitment to having our investment philosophy match our values. This will keep over 2 million dollars out of fossil fuel investments.” Read more

Metro Divests!!

DSC_0068We are thrilled to announce that Metro has made the fossil fuel divestment commitment! And their investments are already clean! Way to go Metro!

This victory completes the trio of Portland-area governments on the divestment list!

A lot of credit for Metro passing their divestment resolution on July 28th goes to Councilors Bob Stacey and Sam Chase who were the champions of the resolution on the Metro Council. But there were other who were crucial as well. Linda Craig of the 350PDX Divestment/Reinvestment Team kept in touch with Stacey and Chase and made sure the resolution happened. Bryan Brumley, another team member (and also a certified financial planner) whose testimony about how poor fossil fuel company investments have become was what convinced Metro President Tom Hughes to vote yes. Our Team likes to talk about the political reasons for divesting (they’ve committed to sustainability) and moral (they should get their investments in line with their values) but it was the financial argument that counted with Hughes. Read more

Divest PERS Campaign Kickoff

DSC_0017On June 23rd an enthusiastic group of PERS members who want to ensure their retirement doesn’t come at the expense of a livable future met for the first time as the new (tentatively named) Divest PERS Team at the Friends Meeting House.

Sandy Polishuk and David Kennedy reported on the history of divestment legislation in Oregon – only two times has the legislature passed bills requiring divestment of PERS investments: Oregon Anti-Apartheid Act of 1987 (divesting from South Africa and Namibia) and Oregon Human Rights and Anti-Genocide Act of 2005 (divesting from Sudan). Neither is in force any longer.

DSC_0029Bryan Brumley, a member of the 350PDX Divestment Team and a certified financial advisor specializing in sustainable, responsible and impact investing, shared his research on the PERS portfolio: it’s different types of investments, the opacity of the actual holdings, and the obstacles to and benefits of divesting. There was discussion of stranded assets and other reasons that fossil fuel companies are becoming worse and worse investments. Read more

Is Your Retirement Banking on Our World’s Destruction? Divest Now!

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The divestment movement is an increasingly important element in the fight against global climate change. Making the personal choice to divest shows commitment to challenging and changing the system that rewards corporations for destroying our planet. 350.org and 350PDX are both working actively to encourage universities, municipalities, foundations, and now individuals, to divest. It may seem like a small stone against the Goliath fossil fuel industry, but each little nugget can become a hail storm they won’t forget.

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