Progress Report from 2014 Climate Justice Resolution


Narrator: We have only a decade to avoid the direst of consequences of the climate crisis. The 2014 General Assembly heard this call and overwhelmingly passed a business resolution on fossil fuel divestment.

Terry Wiggins: My intention was to help UUs live into their values. But it was really Bill McKibben's Do the Math tour in 2012 after the election that prompted our actions.

Narrator: The resolution called the UUA to reduce its fossil fuel holdings and for those few retained, to use its shareholder rights to pressure companies to take action on climate change.

Tim Brennan: Climate change really percolated up to the top of the issues that we were working on.

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray: When I became UUA President, I was astounded at the work that we were doing through the Common Endowment Fund, and the impact that we were having when it came to advocating for greater responsibility from petroleum companies and diminishing emissions and in working for climate justice.

ALy Tharp: Climate justice is a movement responding to the urgency of the climate crisis in a way that actually builds equity and justice in our societies.

Narrator: Our shareholder influence is enhanced by working with other investors through the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility or ICCR.

Josh Zinner: ICCR started in the early 1970s and from there pioneered the strategy of shareholder investor engagement on the environmental and social issues. And the UUA was there, almost from the beginning in the 1970s.

Narrator: Over three decades, the faith community has catalyzed powerful investor coalitions acting on climate change.

Josh Kinard: We are shareholders. And being long term shareholders means something. And now we belong to a group of people like Climate Action 100 Plus which is $33 trillion of invested capital, one-third of the invested capital in the world. And when we walk in and say something to somebody, they listen these days.

Tim Smtih: And so by working together, they have a common set of concerns they put before 160 plus companies, globally, and they engage them, they talk to them, they meet with them, they share research with each other.

Narrator: Since GA 2014, the UUA has filed, or co-filed, 32 climate-related resolutions.

Rev. Kirsten Snow Spalding: As an example, at Exxon, when we demanded a scenario plan for how Exxon was going to make a transition, a couple years ago, we managed to get a 62% vote on that resolution, and that was just unheard of.

Sister Patricia Daly: It was really the first time, and a real turning point, where the largest institutional investors in the world, the Blackrocks, the Vanguards, the Fidelities, it was your mainstream investors who said, "This is really important,
and this company needs to produce this report."

Rev. Kirsten Snow Spalding: At BP and Shell and Glencore, all three of those are good examples of really seeing targets for how they're going to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and plans that are much more assertive in terms of moving faster, deeper, really dramatically changing the businesses.

Anita Green: Two years ago, the UUA joined Westpac in filing a shareholder resolution at Occidental Petroleum, that got 67% of the vote. It was the first time an environmentally-focused shareholder resolution had ever passed at a US oil and gas company. Since then, the company has gone on and is now thinking about ways to become carbon neutral.

Lisa Hayles: Boston Common is the co-author of a report called Disclosing the Facts, and last year the focus was on methane. And what we found is that a company that UUA engaged with, Range Resources, had significantly moved in terms of its performance around methane. So where it used to be a laggard, it's actually improved its practices and its disclosure.

Tim Brennan: The Trump administration is basically overturning rules on methane emissions, rules designed to reduce those emissions. After a conversation with Exxon, they came out with a very public statement saying that they opposed that, and they encouraged the administration to leave the rules in place.

Tim Smtih: I think we're at a tipping point now. Major companies globally understand the issue of climate change and the threat it is to their business.

Narrator: We are more powerful because we unite our assets in the UU Common Endowment Fund and we're more effective because we work in partnership with other faith and values-based investors.

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray: The more that Unitarian Universalist Congregations are invested in the Common Endowment, the more power that we have to advocate as a whole faith on behalf of our values, so I invite congregations to consider seriously the UU Common Endowment Fund as a place to hold their endowment resources, and advocate on our values together.