RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Statement on SEC Shift on Political Spending Disclosure

Statement of the Corporate Reform Coalition and Other Undersigned Organizations in Response to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Shift on Political Spending Disclosure

The Corporate Reform Coalition is deeply disappointed by and demands an explanation for the removal from its agenda of the most widely supported rulemaking in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s history. The agency chose to put the political spending disclosure rule on their docket for consideration based on its strong support from investors and the potential risks to companies from secret political spending. The decision to drop this rule and others from the 2014 Commission agenda is a step back from the SEC’s proactive agenda to protect investors.

There is an urgent need for a new disclosure rule to address political spending since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowed companies to directly spend their money in politics. Citizens United also affirmed the constitutionality of disclosure requirements and, in fact, assumed that new corporate political spending would be transparent to shareholders. Justice Kennedy said in the opinion that “shareholder objections raised through the procedures of corporate democracy” would provide accountability for the new political spending. Without a mandatory disclosure rule shareholders do not have the ability to raise those objections.

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One month ago in Pittsburgh...

“I aint gonna go to bed! I slept already during the day cause I knew you guys were coming!” Pastor Phillip Battle Jr. said to us as we were curling up in our sleeping bags, “Oh! And don't forget about the pizzas in the morning when you get up!”

 

During the three-day-long conference in Pittsburgh, my friends from Middlebury College and University of Rochester and I stayed overnight at the New Light Temple Baptist Church with Pastor Phillip Battle Jr. It was nothing less than a memorable stay, because Pastor Phillip was understanding, generous, and just extremely loving in general. He told us that we were doing something very important, so he supported us – although we never asked for it, he even offered to extend our stay until Monday night. He bought us pizzas on the first night, and chatted with us until it was two. We discussed his experiences in the army, and he was very curious to find out about each of our own passions. 

The conference itself was exceptional. I heard that compared with previous years, this year’s program included more workshops on environmental justice issues, which I valued highly. Although I recognize that some people would have liked even more workshops surrounding this topic, the ones that were there opened my eyes to this often-neglected aspect of the environmental movement. To carry this great work further, I believe that we must build an inclusive progressive movement with environmental & social justice at its center. 

At Powershift, I was greatly encouraged by all the people who were taking active steps to stop Climate Change on their own or with their affiliated groups. I met with the rest of the divestment organizers and discussed strategies, and heard from grassroots organizers from the field who are already paying the bulk of the costs of our energy extraction industries. The latter group touched me deeply: to this day, Kandi Mossett’s sharing about the injustices brought about by the development of a fracking ‘boomtown’ still unsettles me and motivates me to do more for her – our – cause within my capacity.

I realized that this is a movement which should concern anyone who has a race, a gender, a class, an age and drinks water and breathes air. How could any of us live our lives in spite of a deep understanding of all these forces that have been shaping our experiences, and thus our thoughts and perspectives, and will continue to do so in our lives relentlessly? The first step towards true independence, personhood and individualization is a self-recognition of ‘who I am’. It is then that we will acknowledge that nothing is inevitable, that we can enjoy the liberty to choose our allies and our values.

Powershift made it clear to me what my lifelong goal has to be, and helped me to identify some amazing and wonderful people who are doing this work already, most of them out of desperation. The task now is to reach out to more people to help them investigate their identity and privileges. Nothing is inevitable, if only we stand up on our feet to live out the values that we profess.

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“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be”: Collaborative Leadership, Higher Education, and Climate Destabilization

In this piece Second Nature Senior Fellow and former Provost at Ithaca College Peter Bardaglio examines new changes and opportunities in sustainability in higher education. 

From the piece:

Few institutions are better positioned to provide the leadership required to avoid the potential collapse of human civilization than higher education. Indeed, it is hard to see where else the necessary leadership will come from if universities and colleges do not step up and take on this responsibility. Not just any kind of leadership will do the trick, however. This new leadership must be collaborative; it must adopt in its interactions with the larger society the same ethos of cooperation and mutuality that we need to manifest in our interactions with the biosphere. Traditional ideas about top down, hierarchical leadership, it should be obvious, will reinforce rather than dissolve the old commitment to dominion that we need to put behind us.

 

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Brown Votes NO on Coal Divestment & Students Respond

Press Release- Corporation Votes “No” to Coal Divestment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 27, 2013

Contact Info:Contact: Luke Taylor, 203.623.9044, Luke_Taylor@Brown.edu

BROWN UNIVERSITY VOTES “NO” ON COAL DIVESTMENT

Providence, RI – On Saturday, Brown University’s Board of Trustees voted against a proposal to remove the University’s investments in the 15 largest coal companies in the U.S, despite the recommendation of the school’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility and Investment Policy. “I’m deeply disappointed in our administration. The board acted explicitly in opposition to the voices of Brown’s community, and of the endowment oversight committee. This could have been a moment for Brown to step up as a leader in the fight against climate change. Instead, the Administration chose to continue supporting an industry that profits from wreaking havoc on frontline communities and destroying our chance for a sustainable future,” said Brown student Ruby Goldberg ‘17.

 

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New Report: Cleantech Redefined

cleantech_redefined-cover.jpgREC helped to publish this paper on cleantech in the interest of publicizing solutions and options for investors looking for options to invest in climate solutions, especially those who have committed to divest from fossil fuels.


After years in development, cleantech is now going mainstream. Cleantech infrastructure, technology and services are revolutionizing how we make, grow, transport and consume things. They're helping the world meet energy demands. They're creating livelihoods and prosperity in uncertain economies. Is there still time for investors to make good returns in cleantech? Yes. Here's why.

Cleantech Redefined: Why the Next Wave of Cleantech Infrastructure, Technology and Services Will Thrive in the 21st Century, a freely downloadable 38-page report published by cleantech research firm Kachan & Co. and non-profits As You Sow and the Responsible Endowments Coalition, describes and examines the latest investment opportunities and trends across clean energy, efficiency, water, transportation, agriculture, energy storage, air & environment, and clean industry. Macroeconomic drivers have reignited 'cleantech' investment and expanded its reach across sectors and industries, and the opportunities are lucrative and vast.

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Oberlin College Commits to What Could Be the Largest Impact Investing Platform of Any College

Last week the Oberlin College Board of Trustees approved a resolution for an Impact Investment Platform. The Board announced that this platform “will combine socially responsible investing with student-trustee-administration collaboration.”

This resolution comes after many conversations between the administration and the Oberlin Responsible Investing Organization (RIO). RIO is a student organization that works to align Oberlin College’s financial practices with its values. RIO envisions an investment portfolio that prioritizes social and environmental impacts within our community and around the world. RIO recently started the Social Choice Scholarship Fund, a responsibly invested scholarship. Last year, the group jointly proposed the College and Community Investment Plan, which the Board passed in December. RIO is part of a broader national movement towards responsible investment of college and university endowments.

The Impact Investment Platform will be a collaborative effort that will include students, faculty, and alumni. The Responsible Investing Organization looks forward to its further involvement in this effort, ensuring it is an inclusive and transparent process.

“There’s definitely more work to be done to ensure that voices beyond the college—voices in affected communities—are included, and really listened to, in this process,” said senior Isaac McCreery, an organizer with RIO. “But, we’re proud that Oberlin has acknowledged the importance of ethical investing and taken a first step towards that responsibility.”

The Impact Investment Platform has the opportunity to create lasting change in the lives of people in Oberlin, Ohio and beyond by investing in institutions dedicated to social and economic justice, sustainability, and education.

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The Move of the National UCC to Divest from Fossil Fuels--and Why our Universities Must Do the Same

This post is written by Rev. Natalie Shiras, Pastor of Church on the Hill, United Church of Christ in Lenox, MA

It was a powerful moment to witness the near unanimous decision of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (MAC-UCC) to urge divestment from fossil fuel companies on June 15, 2013 in Sturbridge, MA.  I was one pastor along with two delegates representing Church on the Hill, United Church of Christ, in Lenox, MA at the 214th Annual Meeting to vote with 386 other churches on this momentous decision—the first such decision by any religious body in the US.

The Massachusetts Conference along with ten other conferences then carried the resolution to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ held in Long Beach, CA where this denomination became the first national church body on July 2, 2013 to commit to divest in stages from fossil fuel companies over the next five years.

The church was catalyzed by a Rolling Stone article in August 2012 entitled, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” by Bill McKibben of 350.org. But I had been following the movement on my own since March 2012 because students from my alma mater, Harvard, began organizing then for the responsible investment of our school’s over $30 billion endowment. Those Harvard students received crucial support for their organizing work from the Responsible Endowments Coalition. Recently, because of the decision by the UCC to divest, I have started to realize my own power as an alumna of Harvard—the school with the largest university endowment in the country.

The group at Harvard is one of the 380 colleges and universities campaigning for divestment. Already 12 cities—including San Francisco and Seattle—and six colleges have voted to divest.  President Obama even urged divestment from fossil fuel companies during his climate speech on June 25. The Rev. Jim Antal, the Conference Minister of the MAC-UCC, took initiative to write the national resolution for the UCC to divest. By the time of the vote at Synod, the United Church Fund, the main investment institution of the denomination, had been convinced of the efficacy of the movement.

To understand the impact of this move, the United Church Fund (UCF) has an endowment of $750 million, and represents the combined endowments of nearly 5,200 UCC churches around the country.  An important distinction with this decision is that the UCC Pension Board, with over $3 billion in its endowment, has not fully endorsed the Fund’s decision. The Pension board has acceded to cooperate with the UCF “within the limits of the law”—but whether that means divestment, we are not certain. I am certain, however, that the UCF is on the right side of history, and that within the decade, our pension fund will join us on the right side of history, as well.

I am proud to be part of a denomination that acts on behalf of the world to counter climate change. We recognize that our generation and future generations are neighbors. If we continue to extract fossil fuels from the earth, we will have no more neighbors.  Though there was recognition by the body that a tiny percentage of fossil fuel stock would be impacted, there was a felt moral and spiritual power to revoke the social license of these companies to profit at the expense of the health of the earth. This moral duty was far more important than any financial argument made.

My friend and colleague, Susie Phoenix, a delegate from the South Acton Congregational Church, said that delegates should vote for the resolution no matter what the impact on the UCC’s portfolio.  “Sometimes you do take a hit when you decide to divest from unethical businesses”, she said.  I believe this is how we change community, one step at a time. Margaret Mead stated, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

There were 78% of delegates from 5200 congregations and 1.1 million members that accepted the resolution at the General Synod.  That is the power of a movement, started by a small group. It grows.

As an alumna of both Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School, I am hoping the efforts being made by students, faculty, administration, and alumni to divest from fossil fuel companies will succeed there, too. Harvard University is the university with the largest endowment in the country. If universities and faith based institutions alike were to divest, this would make a significant dent in the movement to transform our energy priorities.

Harvard could be a leader if it chose it be—it could move other schools to act similarly, and grow this movement from a small group of schools and institutions to a group of hundreds.

The work of the United Church of Christ inspired the Uniting Church in Australia to pass a similar divestment resolution in April. It is clear that the wider community is looking for leadership on this issue. That the church is taking this leadership is a prophetic message to the world that the work of a small group can make a difference. Jesus declared in his Sermon on the Mount, “that they may see your good works”.  We live out our faith in unity for the sake of our earth and its people.

Rev. Natalie Shiras, Pastor of Church on the Hill, United Church of Christ in Lenox, MA

August 15, 2013

 
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People Powered Policy: Communities of Color Lead on Climate Change and Solar Energy in Oakland, California

We are all facing the challenges of a changing climate. We lose homes, businesses and even lives to superstorms like Katrina and Sandy and to wildfires...

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REC & the Democracy Collaborative Webinar

Check out the recent webinar that REC and the Democracy Collaborative did on our report, “Raising Student Voices: Student Action for Community Investment,”...

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New Position: Organizing Intern for Fall 2013

Check out “Six Reasons Why You Should Apply To REC’s NYC Internships” to learn more about what working with us is like!

Are you working on a campaign for divestment (fossil fuels, prisons, some other issue)?  Community investment?  Engaging with shareholders? Are you hoping to join with 10,000 youth at PowerShift this fall?

The Responsible Endowments Coalition is looking for an Organizing Intern to join us this fall!  Intern duties will include:

  • Outreach to students and allies

  • Contribute to the development of national organizing strategies, especially around fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment

  • Assistance with fundraising, including crowd-sourcing and grant editing/writing

  • Online organizing including website and social media maintenance

  • Generating organizing resources like handouts and newsletters

  • Internal record keeping

  • Workshop development, logistics coordination, and outreach for PowerShift 2013


We are looking for a college student who is taking time off or recent college grad to intern with us full-time.   Preference will be given to applicants with experience on a divestment or responsible investment campaign, though it is not a requirement to apply for the position.

Given our commitment to a diverse student leadership, we strongly encourage people of color, women, working-class, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming, and differently-abled people to apply.

The internship will be based out of our office in Downtown Brooklyn, but will involve travel to PowerShift in October. This position will be stipended.

Applications will be accepted until August 2, or until the position is filled.  Please submit a cover letter and resume to organize@endowmentethics.org to be considered for the internship.  Any questions can also be directed to Lauren and Rose, at organize@endowmentethics.org.
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