A Green Financial Future – for OEC and everyone
What do you do when your money and your values are working against each other?
That was the question that faced the employees of OEC when we took a closer look at our existing retirement plan. As a responsible employer, OEC offered a diversity of retirement investment options for our staff. Despite the variety, however, few of the available investment options were screened to ensure they match our values – values like protecting clean air, clean water and a healthy future for everyone.
OEC started the process of taking a deeper look at our financial holdings when we moved our endowment fund to a set of investments that not only divests from oil, coal, gas and other environmentally damaging industries but also actively invests in companies that take environmental and social responsibility seriously. With the help of Mark Bateman of Segue Point, whose consultancy focuses on socially and environmentally responsible investing, and John Wrenn, a Portland-based adviser at UBS Financial Services, OEC was able to create a strong alignment between our environmental values and their institutional investments. But what about our employees? Our 401k investments included a number of traditional instruments that did not consider environment, social equity, or corporate governance in meaningful ways.
The first question for us was: Where is our money? It’s not hard to find out. New tools – like the Filthy Funds widget designed by Segue Point – allow anyone to look up their mutual funds find out how much they are invested in the production on fossil fuels and other damaging pollution.
The next question was: Where do we want to put our money, instead? OEC’s staff had to agree on our values. Describing what we value – clean air, a healthy climate, responsible manufacturing, financial transparency, and fully disclosed political spending – and the issues that are important to us informed the changes we decided to make. What we discovered is that even at OEC we needed to have affordability and good returns as well as responsibility. Funds and investments that would offer ease of use and low fees as well as funds that steered clear of the oil industry, coal and other heavy polluters while investing in companies that are creating positive change in the world.
Finally, we looked around for investment vehicles that matched out values and our financial needs. It turns out that in some cases, they didn’t exist. For example, many funds that claim to be socially or environmentally responsible only address our values in a superficial way. In a few notable cases, a mutual fund would have a coal investor near the top of their list while still claiming to be clean and green! The employees of OEC needed to break entirely new ground – to work with our financial advisors and banks to make new financial products that not only would work for our needs but would also available for the thousands of Oregonians (and people throughout the world) who share our values.
Working with John Wrenn, OEC pushed and prodded until we got the sort of investments that make sense for regular Oregonians and ensure we are using our money to protect our environmental future. What are these tools?
- Carbon-free Target Date Funds: We all have a time in the future we hope to retire. Maybe it’s in 30 years, maybe it’s in ten. Most retirement plans offer investments that are tied to that date. Investments that slowly shift from higher risk long-term thinking to lower risk asset investments as we near our retirement. OEC worked with UBS to develop the first-of-their-kind No Carbon and Low Carbon Target Date funds.
- Global Fossil Fuel Free Index: Available in the fall of 2016, this first-of-its-kind exchange traded fund (commonly called “index funds”) from Green Century is the first fully divested low fee international index fund. This index fund was created at the prompting of OEC, but will be available for investors across the globe.
- The Filthy Funds Widget: the only one-step mutual fund investigative tool with a global reach, this tool allows anyone to look up any mutual, exchange traded or index fund and get a clear picture of its exposure to fossil fuel investments.
If you want to know more about how you or your company can move your money, let us know!