Research your investments. Do they support fossil fuels?
Consult your financial advisor about alternative funds.
Does your current bank invest heavily in fossil fuels? Consider a change.
Environmental advocates have been urging individuals and institutions to divest from fossil fuels for over a decade. Institutional divestment pledges worldwide have kept 40.51 trillion dollars out of the coffers of oil, gas and coal companies. Many of these divesting institutions are faith-based groups, educational institutions (Harvard University among them) and pension funds. Individual investors who rely on a financial advisor or steward their own savings can also align their investments with their values and, acting together, can have a big impact.
Campaigns to divest from fossil fuels not only seek to make it more difficult for companies like Exxon or Shell to find financing for new, climate-harmful projects but also hope to stigmatize and de-legitimate these companies. Individual investors are a big part of this effort.
For starters, if you work with a financial advisor, call them and ask if they have expertise with fossil fuel-free investing.
If you have investments that you manage yourself, you can research any mutual funds you currently hold on websites like FossilFreeFunds.org or USSIF.org to see how they measure up.
If you find that you need to make a switch, you can work with your financial advisor, or research any tax implications of making a change on your own, and then shift your money into investments that better reflect your values and help move us toward the green energy transition.
The first tier of climate-conscious investing is to choose mutual funds that screen out fossil fuel companies. This is better than nothing but may not ensure that your money is doing as much good as it could.
You may look into ESGs or environmental, social and governance funds. These funds not only screen out fossil fuels, but also look at how companies are run, and even put pressure on participating companies to improve their business practices. Research socially responsible investing, an investment strategy supporting companies that have a positive impact on the world in a variety of areas.
The nonprofit organization Green Century Fund offers several diversified options.
For more information about specific funds and next steps, there is an article from The Atlantic that reviews options, or you can watch a video about climate friendly investing from last year’s climate series at York Public Library, cosponsored by York Ready for Climate Action.
PS. Wondering where to bank? Look for a local bank, and bonus points if it is a B Corp. If possible, avoid big banks (like TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase Bank or Citibank), that are heavily invested in fossil fuels.
Marina Mails is executive director of York Ready for Climate Action, a grassroots organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the causes and effects of climate change and advancing environmentally friendly and inclusive policies and behaviors.