Video Library Impact Investing – Align Your Portfolio with Your Values

The Path to Carbon Divestiture

Threshold Group’s Managing Director of Investment Strategy, Teresa Wells, discusses how we help individuals and foundations perform carbon divestitures by understanding the goals they actually want to achieve.


Ron: Julia mentioned something about carbon divestiture. Teresa, I’m wondering if there’s any work you’ve been doing at Threshold Group to really think through the issue for those individuals and foundations that have expressed a desire to divest their portfolio of carbon.

Teresa: I guess, Julia, having come from this industry, I share your skepticism, and if you asked me this same question 10 years ago, I probably would have aligned with it. But today, evaluating the universe of ideas that are out there and particularly looking at some of the strategies that are more aligned with impact, there are actually some considerable and very interesting supply and demand impacts that are happening within areas like water, like sustainable agriculture, that actually present some really interesting investment ideas. We’ve helped our clients work through a number of these issues in introducing other strategies that can be equally or better compelling, kind of in line with what Jacob was mentioning. As far as developing a strategy for going through a divest maybe reinvest program, there’s a few different ways that we’ve approached this, and it really starts with trying to understand what the foundation is actually trying to achieve. In some cases, the foundations are really just wanting to divest of the 15 filthiest coal stocks. Others are more focused on extractive fossil fuels getting out of energy exploration and production companies. A number of others are actually taking the path of trying to reduce the carbon footprint in their portfolios. What they were realizing is that they would actually remove Exxon and BP from their portfolios and reinvest right back into coal-burning utilities, thereby actually increasing their carbon footprint. As you mentioned, that’s a very difficult task to try to understand what the carbon footprint is. So we’ve actually partnered with a group called Trucost who is capable of going through and auditing all of the holdings that are within a portfolio to understand what the carbon impact is in that, and once we have that data, we can work with our foundations to go through and develop a transition plan for moving closer in alignment with that goal. It’s definitely more of a marathon than a sprint, and we go piece by piece to understand what it is what we want to align with and what we want to move away from. But it is in fact in a lot of cases quite possible to keep full mission alignment and financial results present in the portfolio.

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