Public Policy

Clean Yield’s Eric Becker preparing to testify in support of fossil fuel divestment at the Vermont State House.

At Clean Yield Asset Management, we take a nuanced view of the role of the private sector in shaping public policy and regulations.

Because corporations aren’t real people, we don’t think it’s proper for them (us!) to spend money on any kind of electoral activity. Real people should elect real people, and we support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the pivotal Supreme Court decision that allowed unlimited corporate contributions to so-called “independent” political committees. We regularly champion shareholder resolutions designed to throw more light on corporate contributions.

Clean Yield Asset Management joined with the Vermont Public Interest Group to sponsor a forum on Citizens United in Montpelier that drew an overflow crowd of 300. We co-sponsored a similar forum at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. These and other events helped inspire Vermont to become the third state to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United (16 states have done so to date).

At the same time, we believe that there’s a fundamental difference between spending money to elect politicians and talking to those politicians after they’ve been elected. We support the right of businesses to lobby government, and we do so ourselves. This activity should be transparent too, and we’ve called upon companies to make complete disclosures about their lobbying.

For our part:

  • Clean Yield has testified on several occasions in support of fossil fuel divestment by government pension funds in Vermont and Massachusetts.
  • We lobbied for the passage of the Vermont Benefit Corporations Act (2011).
  • We joined Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at a press conference for the introduction of 2013’s federal Corporate Tax Fairness Act.
  • We weighed in on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Disclosure Effectiveness Review (2016).

Clean Yield partnered with the Donella Meadows Institute to produce two panel presentations during 2014’s New Economy Week. “Who Owns Vermont? Emerging Ownership Designs in Vermont’s Economy” explored alternative ownership models in land, energy, industry, and banking. “Integrating Mission Into Ownership” focused on how employee ownership works for one of Vermont’s leading small businesses and looked at changes in federal and state securities laws that are enabling smaller investors to capitalize businesses they believe in.

Through our membership in sustainability-oriented investor networks like the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF), we take advantage of opportunities to co-sign letters with other investors on a range of topics addressing corporate responsibility issues. In 2015, we added our name to the following letters: