Church event examines the case for divestment

On 6 October 2016, Rathbone Greenbank was invited to participate in a multidenominational event at Southwark’s Anglican Cathedral on the subject of “Investing sustainably: Protecting financial assets and supporting the transition to a zero-carbon future”.

The discussion was, in part, motivated by the growing movement among churches of all denominations to encourage divestment from coal, oil and gas. It also took inspiration from the publication in May 2015 of Pope Francis’s second encyclical, Laudato si’, which included direct criticism of environmental degradation for the sake of profit and called for the progressive replacement of fossil fuels with sustainable alternatives “without delay”.

Experts in sustainable investment joined representatives from several denominations and Church of England diocesan environment officers to discuss the case for collective divestment from fossil fuels. Keynote speaker Bishop Richard Cheetham, Bishop of Kingston, articulated the point that church investors had a significant role to play in encouraging a global “ecological conversion” consistent with the counsel of Laudato si’. He also warned against complacency in the aftermath of the ratification of the Paris Agreement, encouraging investors to continue to press companies on their environmental impacts and to reject the obsessive pursuit of growth for its role in the depletion of finite resources.

In an online article published after the event, Independent Catholic News referenced an announcement made two days earlier by a coalition of seven Catholic groups across five continents advising of their intention to divest their holdings in fossil fuels.

Quoted in the same article, John David, head of Rathbone Greenbank, lent support to this mounting challenge to investment in fossil fuels. He emphasised that his team’s focus on energy investment was increasingly negative towards oil, gas and mining and was “totally dedicated to considering the ethical, social and environmental background” of its investment choices.

Rathbone Greenbank has long been involved in the debate around fossil fuel investment, engaging sector constituents in questions about their environmental and social impacts and strategies to reduce their contribution to climate change. Working across various initiatives to encourage enhanced corporate transparency, promote  analysis of decarbonisation scenarios and the viability of mitigating technologies such as carbon capture and storage, we believe that considered divestment from fossil fuels reflects both the increasing social and political appetite for responsible energy consumption and the changes in investor choice that have informed and encouraged it.

Our commitment to climate change is also evidenced by our collaborative work with the ‘Aiming for A’ investor coalition, an initiative undertaking in-depth engagement with the ten largest UK-listed extractives and utilities companies, and which is now becoming pan-European in scope. Additionally, our involvement with the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, our role as a signatory to the Montréal Carbon Pledge and our membership of the Carbon Disclosure Project all serve to ensure that we are at the forefront of efforts to measure corporate practices against policy commitments.

The event in Southwark was jointly organised by The Climate Change Collaboration, Quaker Peace & Social Witness and Operation Noah, whose Bright Now campaign targets fossil-free church investment in response to the growing threat of climate change. 

Find out more about our divestment services here.