As of July of 2013, I can confidently say that none of my money is invested in companies who's core business plan is to extract fossil fuels to burn them. I was motivated to take this small, personal action when I realized that, even though it was scary, personal divestment was probably the most significant step I could take to push back on climate change, and it didn't even impact my lifestyle or take that much time.
If anything, talking about personal divestment is more difficult than actually doing it. We don't normally talk about our finances with strangers. 'A little bit of money' to one person is 'a huge amount of money' to another. And I'm not in any kind of position to actually give financial advice. I can just share my story and a few things I learned along the way.
The money I have, which seems like a lot to me, sits in a fund at Merryl Lynch, and until July, it consisted of specific stocks my grandparents had given me, and index funds. And aside from feeling really grateful that it's there, I don't really think about it. So, the first thing I did was go through the list of individual stocks (only about 6 names). Those were clear enough that I didn't have to cross-check them against the list of the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The stocks in my list aren't the most ethical companies in the world, at least their entire corporate value isn't derived from extracting as much global warming producing carbon as possible.
The index funds were more difficult to figure out what to do. An index fund, like a mutual fund, is a collection of individual stocks repackaged as a single name. Unlike a mutual fund, index funds are not assembled by a person, but instead include a proportional amount of every stock in a given area. So if you own the S&P 500 index fund, you literally own every single company that is on the S&P 500. As you might imagine, this includes companies dedicated to finding and digging up prehistoric carbon.
Now that I found something that I wanted to change, I called the account manager to discuss options. It went something like this:Read more
One of the stand-out lessons -- and a welcome surprise to some of us -- is that many people are more concerned about whether divestment is the most effective form of climate action, rather than just asking how it will affect the bottom line. This has been inspiring for me, personally, because it shows a real commitment within the Williams community to addressing climate changeRead more
Over the summer, several alumni thought about divestment and reinvestment and the steps to take to get there. We did research, thought through outreach, and put together this website and other tools for people to learn and follow along.
The public campaign is starting with a letter. The Communications Team put together an initial draft and several volunteers poured time into revisions, making sure that this letter presents a strong case for divestment and reinvestment. When the smoke cleared, after around 30 hours of volunteer time, a solid letter emerged. We hope you'll share it with Ephs you know. Here it is:Read more
Let's get things rolling! After a summer of talking about how to launch an alumni effort to work with the college to reinvest, we're picking up the pace. This website is the online home of the campaign, dedicated to building support for this initiative, sharing information, and working with the trustees to place Williams in a leadership role.