The following is testimony submitted to the Portland City Council on December 17, 2014, on the subject of socially responsibly investments.
My name is Zach Allan, I live in East Portland, and I am here on the subject of socially responsible investments. In time, unethical, business practices come and go, and one corporation may become unethical while another improves, making a good case for a permanent socially responsible investment committee. I would like to commend the city on their Wal-Mart divestment and the establishment of this committee.
There are other companies, though, we can divest from now without need for further review.
Fossil fuel companies fail at least 3 of the criteria given to the socially responsible investment committee:
- Environmental concerns
- Health concerns
- Exercise of market dominance to disrupt market forces
I urge the city to add fossil fuel companies to their do-not-buy list now. There is a list of 200 such companies that are easy to screen for, and there is no evidence that divesting from such companies will hurt your portfolio.
This divestment would also align with the city’s Climate Action Plan.
The Inter-governmental panel on climate change continues to project what the effects of global warming will be, and continually finds that every degree of carbon reduction has a great effect on climate stability. What we do now is of the greatest significance, a fact everyone in my generation knows, but those controlling our investments for the future are often able to gloss over.
Steve Novick’s blog post explaining the need for a socially responsible investment committee is also a good explanation of fossil fuel divestment. I will read that now:
September 2013, Steve Novick’s blog on the Portland City Government website:
“I know that Portland alone is unlikely to have an impact on the business practices of Fortune 500 companies – but acting together, the cities, counties and states of America certainly could have an impact. If a significant number of such governments follow our lead, corporations that don’t meet our criteria will start to find that it’s harder for them to raise capital. If that happened, those corporations would have to think about changing their behavior.
“Under the new policy, we would examine corporations that meet our stringent financial criteria for investment to see how they fare on certain other criteria. We would take note of abusive labor practices. We would ask if the company has conducted activities that are damaging to human health or the environment.”
On a separate but related note, I would like to say that I am against the Pembina Propane terminal. It doesn’t matter how eco-friendly we become if we ship all our fuel to Asia to burn it there.
Thank you for your time.