Environment, News

June 7, 2016

Canadian Foundations Join Global Fossil Free Movement

CDF Icon Green White

Divest-Invest Philanthropy announces first Canadian members before Environmental Grantmakers’ Network annual meeting

Leading Canadian foundations announced today they would divest their portfolios of planet-heating fossil fuels and invest instead in climate solutions. As Canada works to meet its climate change targets, leading foundations are throwing their weight behind the message that the transformation of our energy system is urgent and a great investment opportunity.

Toronto Atmospheric Fund, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Comart Foundation became the first Canadian signatories to Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a global alliance of foundations committed to accelerating the clean energy transition.

“Avoiding dangerous climate change requires that foundations, as well as government, private sector, and citizens, invest in low-carbon solutions now,” said Toronto Atmospheric Fund CEO Julia Langer. “Early-adopters have demonstrated that divesting and investing reduces carbon risk to the portfolio, generates financial returns on investment, and achieves carbon reduction.”

150 foundations with over $12 billion in assets have taken the Divest-Invest Pledge. Members agree to drop existing investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies and invest at least 5 percent of their portfolios into climate solutions, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean technology and clean energy access, within a five-year period.

“The Catherine Donnelly Foundation’s decision to divest from fossil fuels is motivated by a strong financial logic as well as a deep concern for environmental stewardship,” said Donnelly Foundation Chair, Jason Dudek. “As governments and global accords debate various restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, we feel these investments are becoming increasingly risky while the green energy sector continues to demonstrate excellent potential.”

Experts on fiduciary duty say fossil fuel divestment ultimately may be required by law. “Trustees are increasingly expected to look beyond portfolio performance to the intentional management of systemic risks and rewards, reflecting the longer term interests of their beneficiaries. Over time, this will likely become an enforceable obligation,” said Ed Waitzer, Professor and Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.

Divest-Invest Philanthropy was launched in January 2014 by the Wallace Global Fund to support the wider divestment movement pushing churches, cities, universities, pension funds, insurers and other institutional investors to invest morally in a time of climate change. Today, institutions and individuals pledging some form of divestment control assets of more than $4 trillion.

“The global divest-invest movement was a primary driver of success at the climate talks in Paris last December, where the world’s governments agreed to ambitious action to be carbon-free by mid-century,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. “But governments cannot do it alone; the private and nonprofit sectors also have a critical role to play in shifting markets and accelerating the transition to clean and safe energy. This is business as urgent.”

The movement is catalyzing changes in financial markets, as investors increasingly demand fossil free investment strategies. In Canada, Genus Capital Management has worked with the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, and Clayoquot Biosphere Trust on tailored divestment strategies.

“As investment community leaders, Canadian foundations and family offices have the power to choose investments that will support a just transition to a low carbon economy and fossil free energy systems,” said Wayne Wachell, CEO of Genus Capital Management. “Genus is proud to be a leading provider of investment tools for Divest-Invest signatories across Canada.”

A global coalition, Divest-Invest Philanthropy includes iconic foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Velux Foundations, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, and the Mary Robinson Foundation. In April, 2016, the signatories of Divest-Invest Philanthropy received the 2016 Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award for Brave Philanthropy from CIVICUS, a global civil society NGO.



Clara Vondrich, Director, Divest-Invest Philanthropy, clara@divestinvest.org

Desmond Wilson, Chief Financial Officer, Catherine Donnelly Foundation, dwilson@catherinedonnellyfoundation.org