In time to celebrate Earth Day, United Church Funds has widened its investment in global corporations — while avoiding companies that produce oil, coal or gas— to meet the desires of investors, and to work toward meeting a General Synod 2013 resolution that urges divestment, along with other strategies, from fossil fuel companies to combat climate change.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, United Church of Christ general minister and president, not only applauded the move, he encourages more settings of the denomination to consider investing in a sustainable future. "On behalf of UCC churches and institutions that place climate concerns among their top investing priorities, I applaud UCF's continual process of improvement on the Beyond Fossil Fuels Funds," he said. "I am glad that the United Church of Christ's Covenanted Ministries have benefitted from these improvements, and I encourage all churches in the UCC to explore these funds."
"By examining what investors want in a climate-sensitive investment option, and in working with our investment managers, we believe we have created a fund which combines reasonable risk and return expectations with a reduced exposure to those companies producing fossil fuels," said Don Hart, president of UCF, an investment arm of the UCC. "Now we ask the wider UCC to have intentional conversations about whether this fund is right for their church or institution."
Before international expansion, the Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund only invested in the largest U.S. companies, while avoiding companies that produce oil, coal or gas. UCF also created the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund, which combines the U.S.-based Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund, international stocks, and U.S. fixed income (bonds) to make it easy for churches and institutions to diversify their investments. Until now, investments in the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund had exposures to fossil fuel companies — of which investors were aware —but they challenged UCF to focus on eliminating direct investments in fossil fuel companies.
"The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund and the Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund are just two of the ways UCF expresses its profound disquiet about how business as usual will impact the planet and communities," said Katie McCloskey, UCF director of social responsibility. "We continue to be an active shareholder by bringing climate concerns to corporate boardrooms. In addition, we are lessening exposures to fossil fuels producers in many of our other funds as well. When our children ask what we did to stop climate change, we will be able to say we were part of the solution."
The Beyond Fossil Fuels Fund launched in August 2014 with $20 million in seed money, and now has more than $50 million in investments.