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Fossil Fuels: Divest AND Engage!
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

The Unitarian Universalist Association, a faith-based community of more than 1000 congregations, has joined a growing list of institutions choosing to both divest AND engage.

The Association recently passed a resolution that requires their $137 million endowment fund to cease purchasing securities in the Carbon Tracker 200—those companies with the largest proven carbon reserves—and to sell current holdings of these companies within five years. These assets will be redeployed in securities that will support a transition to a clean energy economy (i.e. renewable energy and energy efficiency related companies).

The resolution also allows the UUA to retain investments in fossil fuel companies with which it is engaged in shareholder actions seeking environmental justice.

Simon Billenness, founder of CSR Strategy Group, discussed the evolution of climate change activism in a recent blog post. Although Mr. Billenness was first opposed to the divestment strategy, his position changed as he began to realize that a successful investor strategy was not an either/or proposition:

“Key to the success of negotiation was each side’s recognition that we were all part of the movement to halt climate change. Everyone began to realize that this was a discussion between friends and allies and the only real differences were over tactics to reach the common goal of halting climate change.”

“There was a key shift in the framing of the discussion. When we started the debate, the question was framed as: should the UUA EITHER divest OR continue its shareholder activism against the fossil fuel companies? The turning point came when we changed the frame of the discussion to: how should the UUA BOTH divest AND do shareholder activism?”

First Affirmative manages investment portfolios for socially conscious investors, including more than 60 clients who have requested fossil fuel free investment strategies. For more information on First Affirmative’s divestment and advocacy activities, follow this link.


At First Affirmative, we understand that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Posted: July 24, 2014