Valerie Rockefeller Wayne says her family embraces the irony that her great great grandfather John D. Rockefeller made his money in oil. But the chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also says that Rockefeller was an innovator who moved into fossil fuels to get away from whale oil. And now the Rockefeller family fund will move away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.
“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” Mr Heintz said in a statement.
In all, 10 percent of the $860 million endowment will go into sustainable investments. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund also eliminated funds in coal and tar sands. In recent years, 180 institutional funds totaling $50 billion have pledged to divest of fossil fuels.
Steve Rockefeller, son of Nelson A. Rockefeller and trustee of the fund sees financial problems ahead for companies that have stockpiled more reserves than they can burn. “We see this as having both a moral and economic dimension,” he said to The New York Times.
Fossil fuels are an increasingly risky investment, according to the Rockefeller family. The announcement was timed to precede the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit. Activist investors like those of the apartheid divestment of the 1980’s seek to bring the conversation about climate change front and center.
“This is a threshold moment,” Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which has coordinated the effort to recruit foundations to the cause said to The New York Times. “This movement has gone from a small activist band quickly into the mainstream.”
Activist investors admit that divesting from fossil fuels is unlikely to have an immediate impact on a company’s bottom line but they still hope to “align their assets with their environmental principles”. Others contend that forthcoming regulations on planet warming companies could disrupt profits.
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Image: Patrick Hawks