Campus Divestment Campaign for the Rest of Us

Inspired by the Do the Math tour — and the math itself — I thought we might follow the lead of colleges and universities all over the country who are going fossil free. Naively perhaps, I dropped an email on the subject to our portfolio consultant at a well-known brokerage firm. Here’s what I wrote:

Thanks for your recent email and message addressing our concerns about the fiscal cliff and other political issues. Actually, we are far more concerned about climate change as the issue that trumps them all, and we want to make our investments support our values. Please purge our portfolio of fossil fuel and related companies. Here is a list provided by the campaign that has been used for the divestment campaign at universities and colleges across the country:

Easier said than done for the individual investor. After a couple of weeks of research, we got a phone call advising us that there were few mutual funds that met our SRI (socially-responsible investment) criteria. We were given the names and ticker symbols of two, with the caveat that neither fund could be recommended as meeting our overall investment targets. In short, they were more volatile for the conservative investment profile we had helped to create. In other words, we were on our own on this one.

What to do? What would Warren Buffet do? Apparently, he likes solar, healthcare and banks for Berkshire Hathaway, and he has convinced eleven more billionaires to give away half their wealth to charity.

Hmmm, could I take a page out of the Big Dog investment playbook? I was reminded of the conversation we had with a financial advisor a couple of months ago to whom we had come with the same concerns. She thought creating and/or preserving wealth (even in distasteful industries), enables one to fund causes in which one believes. It’s another way.