The UUs Get it Right

I have spent almost a year working with UU Divest, the group originally promoting the divestment resolution, my fellow committee members, and UUA staff including the Treasurer and CFO, Tim Brennan.  What we accomplished is unique and worthy of consideration by other religious investors.

When the issue of fossil fuel divestment was promoted at last year’s General Assembly, I was largely opposed to it.  The UUA is a leader in shareholder activism to halt climate change.  I felt strongly it made no sense to simply sell our fossil fuel company to another investor that likely did not care about this critical problem.

Over the course of a year of careful negotiation with the divestment proponents, I began to change my position. 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.

The claim to uniqueness is no exaggeration. While other investor advocates (like Clean Yield, as I recently blogged) continue to file proposals while being of all practical purposes “out” of fossil fuel stocks, religious investors and many other asset owners continue to view the divestment debate largely as an “either-or” conundrum rather than a “both-and” opportunity, as Billenness describes it. It’s a model to emulated by asset owners who don’t want to give up their voice, but are concerned about the carbon bubble and the fact that owning fossil fuel stocks conveys a dangerous message of implicit approval of those companies’ destructive and unsustainable business models.