On Monday, July 14, Citibank agreed to pay a $7 billion settlement related to sub-prime mortgage-backed securities sold to investors during the lead up to the financial crisis of 2008. The settlement results from a Justice Department effort to crack down on the complex and risky behaviors that led Wall Street to the brink of collapse in 2008. While the overwhelming majority of Americans want to hold bankers accountable for gambling on peoples’ livelihoods, the recent settlements don’t represent a real victory for the population. If we break down the structure of the most recent settlement, it’s easy to see why.
Citi agreed to pay a total of $7 billion dollars to end a DOJ inquiry into its involvement in the financial crisis. Citi will pay $4.5 billion in cash, and $2.5 billion to provide relief to struggling homeowners and low-income tenants in the form of restructured mortgages. Of the $4.5 billion cash payment, $4 billion will go to the Justice Department as a civil penalty. The other $500 million will be paid as fees to state Attorneys General and to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
There are a few reasons why this settlement looks more like a PR stunt than Citi actually trying to right any wrongdoing. First of all, the majority of the settlement will go to the agencies doing the prosecution, pretty much to spend at their discretion. The prosecuting agencies do not represent the true victims of the housing crisis, the ones who were aggressively sold mortgages that they had no chance of affording a few years down the line. The lion’s share of the settlement, in effect, settles little more than legal fees.
Citigroup can count the loan modifications it will make for sub-prime borrowers under the government Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) as part of the settlement. This program awards incentive payments to the bank to modify bad loans. Citi will actually receive payments for abiding by the terms of the settlement they reached with the government. The assistance to homeowners, those most affected by the financial crisis, will therefore be subsidized.
And as if the taxpayer hasn’t already paid enough for the egregious actions of large financial institutions leading up to the financial crisis, any mortgage principal reductions to homeowners from Citi will come in the form of earned income for tax purposes. Any supposed relief homeowners enjoy will be taxed as income, in many cases negating any relief in the first place. This is due to the expiration of the Mortgage Debt Relief Forgiveness Act, which Congress has failed to renew. Without this essential protection, the settlement might actually leave some borrowers worse off.
The settlement reached between Citi and the Department of Justice doesn’t even address the losses incurred by investors who purchased securities backed by sub-prime mortgages in the lead-up to 2008.
At the end of the day, Citi will pay $7 billion to get regulators and investigators off its back. The settlement comes after JP Morgan Chase reached a similar agreement to the tune of $13 billion last year. The DOJ collects more cash than it knows what to do with, the mega-banks continue to gamble with real peoples’ homes (increasingly in the rental market that grew as a result of the crash), and tax-paying citizens are left to foot the bill. Nobody involved with the packaging and sale of toxic mortgages will see the inside of a jail cell, and all parties involved will move forward as if the mess didn’t occur in the first place. If you’re tired of the illusion of justice in our legal and financial systems, Green America urges you to take the time and tell Eric Holder to re-prioritize the prosecution of those involved mortgage fraud. Unless the people stand up and demand justice, there will be nothing to deter mega-banks like Citi from driving the economy to the brink of collapse all over again.
Co-authored by Joey Friedman
Of late, most of Apple’s labor scandals have stemmed from supplier factories in China. Today’s Wall Street Journal, however, points to a labor problem much closer to home. On Monday July 21, 20,000 hourly workers in California filed suit against Apple for workplace violations.
The case, originally filed back in 2011 by four Apple employees, now voices the position of 20,000 employees claiming Apple’s violation of wage and hour laws. Reports have been made that these employees were denied lunch breaks, rest breaks, and final paychecks while working for Apple. Other claims broadly illustrate mistreatment within the workplace. Multiple reports reflect that if certain labor policies were discussed among employees they became at risk for being “fired, sued or disciplined.”
The claims made by the thousands of California-based staff members exhibits behaviors of a hostile and threatening work environment. It is possible that such a harsh relationship between staff members and management is what has kept these employees fearfully quiet for any length of time. It’s clear that while Apple offers admiral benefits packages for its corporate employees, its hourly retail workers (and the workers on the other end of its supply chain, assembling its prized iGadgets) are not treated as well.
Apple is the second most profitable company in the world and recently announced second quarter profits of $7.75 billion dollars, up 12% since the same time last year. The company touts itself as a leader of social and environmental responsibility, however, in reality, Apple’s labor record seems to align more closely with that of Walmart.
This can’t go on. Send Apple a message>>
In the “letter” box you can add your concerns for workers in the U.S. as well as overseas.
Apple Facing Another Class-Action Suit by Employees, Wall Street Journal
Today, the Green America Better Paper Project and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are excited to announce that National Geographic is using recycled fiber in the pages of several of their publications – including their flagship publication that reaches over 4 million readers!
National Geographic’s move was the result of several years of assistance from the Better Paper Project and allies. Last year, with the support of the Better Paper Project and NRDC, National Geographic published a study finding that in 14 out of 14 environmental categories, recycled fiber is superior to virgin fiber in magazines. One year later, National Geographic now has plans in place to increase the amount of recycled fiber in their magazines. Their recycled paper use expansion means that more than 1,000 new tons of recycled paper will be used each year.
As a magazine reader, your opinion makes a difference to the publisher. Consumer concern played a big role in encouraging National Geographic to move to recycled fiber, and now it is very important to use your voice with other publishers – most of whom still use paper only of virgin fiber.
We’re asking all Green Americans to let the publishers of your favorite magazines know that you want them to use paper with recycled fiber. (Not sure if your magazine is using recycled paper? Check here to see a list of the leaders in the industry.)
You can send your message to them in any (or all) of the following ways:
- Write a letter to the editor – you can usually find an email or mailing address for the editor in the magazine or on their website. We’ve included the emails of a few popular publications below.
- Post to the magazine’s Facebook page.
- Send a “Tweet” to the editor using their Twitter address.
Follow the steps below to take action.
1. Letter to the Editor
Send To: Your favorite magazines
Subject: Are you using recycled paper?
I’ve recently learned that National Geographic Society (NGS) is beginning to use recycled paper in all the pages of their photography-centric flagship, National Geographic Magazine. I’d like to ask you if you are using recycled paper in your magazine, and if not, I strongly urge you to begin doing so.
Using recycled paper is critical to protecting the forests and biodiversity impacted when trees are logged for paper production and use. A life-cycle assessment (LCA) commissioned by NGS demonstrates that in all fourteen categories studied—including energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, etc. – recycled paper has a lower impact on the environment than traditional virgin tree fiber paper.
NGS worked closely with the Green America Better Paper Project to thoroughly study this issue. I encourage you to reach out to the Better Paper Project (www.betterpaper.org) for assistance and begin using recycled paper as soon as possible.
Thanks for your attention to this important issue.
PS – You can contact the Better Paper Project Director, Frank Locantore by email and phone: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-872-5308
2. Post to Facebook
Here are some sample posts you can use to comment on a magazine’s Facebook page:
- Great publication. Do you print on recycled paper? I’d love to know that you are helping protect our forests and climate. Go to www.BetterPaper.org to find out how.
- Love this article. I want to love it more – can you tell me if it is printed on recycled paper? Go to www.BetterPaper.org to find out the benefits of recycled fiber.
Please contact Frank Locantore at the Better Paper Project (email@example.com) if you get a response from a publisher.
3. Send a Tweet
We understand if you are resisting the plethora of social media. But, in the magazine world, Twitter has become a really useful tool for the editors and writers to communicate with their audience. If you use Twitter, please consider sending some “Tweets.” Here are a few examples:
- You can help protect #forests, #climate, & #communities by using #recycled paper in [insert magazine Twitter name] #magazine.
- #whatsinyourpaper [insert magazine Twitter name]? Please contact @BetterPaperProj if you need help switching to #recycled #paper
- I love your [insert magazine Twitter name] magazine, but hate hurting the planet. Do you use #recycled paper? Ask @BetterPaperProj for help.
Thanks for all you do to make this a greener world!
Contact Information for Several Popular US Magazines
(If your favorite mags are not listed below, you can find contact information for the editor on most publisher websites and Facebook pages through Google).
Co-authored by Joey Friedman
After undercover investigations and resulting allegations of underage workers in one of Samsung’s supplier factories, Samsung has quickly made public response to this issue. Repeatedly pledging a “zero tolerance policy”, Samsung has currently suspended their involvement with Shinyang Electronic Co. Ltd, in Dongguan, China. Until recently, Shinyang produced phone covers and parts for Samsung. It’s a South Korean-invested facility which hires about 40% temporary workers, all reportedly under the age of 35.
Although Samsung has conducted its own audits of this factory (three since 2013, the most recent on June 25, 2014), the company uncovered no cases of child labor. China Labor Watch (CLW), however, found at least five children working on one production line in this facility, and estimate there could be as many as twenty children working on that line and more throughout the facility.
Samsung’s failure to notice such gross violations during multiple visits to Shinyang certainly questions the rigor and effectiveness of these audits. In response to the allegations made by CLW, Samsung launched another investigation last week and reported finding evidence of illegal hiring processes. If Samsung’s investigation concludes that illegal hiring practices were indeed used, Samsung is threatening to permanently terminate its involvement with Shinyang.
In an effort to completely eradicate child labor within electronic factories, it is reassuring to see such an adamant response from Samsung’s team. However, the repercussions that could result from termination would leave workers worse off. Most imminently, the reported 1,200 Chinese workers in this facility could immediately lose their jobs, as Samsung is a major purchaser from this facility.
Cutting ties also relieves a lot of responsibility from Samsung. Other major electronics factories have formal child labor remediation policies. Apple, for example, requires that suppliers found to be employing underage workers must return children to school, finance their education and continue to provide income.
Shinyang’s violations reach beyond underage workers. All workers—adults, minors, and children—are underpaid, overworked, malnourished and forced into hazardous situations. A strong child labor remediation process, along with an increased hourly wage, and overtime that respects national limits would go a long way to make Shinyang a better place to work.
As Samsung considers next steps with Shinyang, we strongly urge the company to invest more in Shinyang and reform the factory so that it is a decent place to work. Terminating business with this factory is just a temporary solution to a systemic problem. The high demand and low prices that Samsung imposes on its supplier factories indirectly pushes them to seek out the cheapest labor possible, and in this unfortunate instance, children.
- Another Samsung Supplier Exploiting Child Labor (CLW’s Report)
- Samsung Blog Post – July 14
- Samsung Blog Post – July 10
Never mind that exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian markets would cause U.S. energy prices to rise. Never mind that opening up an export facility on the Maryland Eastern Shore would create incentives to open up Marcellus Shale deposits for gas production in the western region of the state. Even if we look past the massive greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and other environmental catastrophes associated with natural gas production, the planned LNG export facility in Cove Point raises a serious and immediate concern: safety.
In April, the assistant fire chief of the Solomons Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad stepped down from his post after expressing safety concerns over the Cove Point project. The concerns arose from the fact that the department had not received any formal LNG safety training, and was not prepared to deal with a potential catastrophic explosion. While responding to an LNG emergency would first be the responsibility of Calvert County, any volunteer without proper equipment or training is at a serious risk in doing so. A representative from Dominion stated that they were working with the county to educate volunteers on the hazards and risks of LNG.
So what exactly makes LNG so dangerous? Converting natural gas into its liquid form requires chilling the gas to -161.5o C (258.7o F) using massive refrigerant compressors. These compressors, powered by natural gas themselves, circulate the gas at close to atmospheric pressure until it becomes a liquid, making it easier to store and transport by ship. LNG can vaporize and form highly explosive clouds in pipelines and other parts of the facility if its container leaks. In a phenomenon called rapid phase transition, the heat transfer from spilling enough water at room temperature on the subzero LNG can cause a tremendous “cold explosion.”
Explosions in the last decade in Algeria and as recently as this past April in Washington state have left environmentalists, emergency responders, and citizens living near proposed facilities in the U.S. understandably concerned. So far there are two approved export facilities in Louisiana, with one already under construction. While the LNG industry maintains a respectable track record in taking safety measures to prevent explosions, leaks, and spills throughout the process, further expansion of liquefaction facilities situated around populated areas only increases the risk of an avoidable catastrophe. The bottom line is it only takes one mistake to create a devastating explosion, and irreparably harm a community.
Residents of Lusby, Maryland have organized and are demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC conduct a full environmental impact assessment to weigh the risks against the rewards of the Cove Point facility as touted by Dominion Resources. While Dominion dangles the prospect of 3000 construction jobs and 75 permanent positions to local power brokers, Calvert County residents are speaking up in defense of their delicate bay ecology, and the economy that depends on it. The risks posed by sea level rise, potential explosions, and large-scale environmental damage due to expanded fracking operations have many Marylanders in favor of clean energy development, such as offshore wind and solar.
Independent studies often find more hazards associated with the proposed facility than those commissioned by regulatory agencies. While the economic benefits of a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Cove Point have been presented loud and clear, it is also clear that those benefits would do little for a Bay town that’s lost its bay. After picketing the FERC building, submitting thousands of public comments demanding a full risk assessment, and gathering en masse on the streets of Washington, DC to protest the project, Lusby residents remain uneasy about what the future holds for their slice of the Chesapeake.
China Labor Watch’s (CLW) report, Another Samsung Supplier Exploiting Child Labor, documented child labor and other abuses at Shinyang Electronic Co. Ltd. Shinyang is a South Korean-owned company, mainly producing the covers and other parts for Samsung cell phones. The report revealed that five children (under 16) were found to be working in this facility, as well as numerous minors (under 18). These young workers are subject to the same long hours as other workers, and compensated less. These children were also working the night shift, from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am, six to seven days a week.
This news adds to mounting concern regarding Samsung’s labor record. Last month the Washington Post shared that more than 200 former Samsung workers are suffering from grave illnesses, allegedly contracted while working in Samsung plants.
Samsung’s own sustainability reports make no-mention of these issues. It’s most recent report stated stated the company inspected working conditions at over 200 suppliers in 2013 and that “no instances of child labor were found.” The violations found in CLW’s report raise questions about the effectiveness of Samsung’s self-monitoring and the truth of its reports.
In response, Green America and China Labor watch have teamed up to launch a petition to Samsung’s CEO calling on the company to immediately cease abusive labor practices in its supplier factories.
Shared via GMO Inside.
As we transition into summer, gardeners are relishing in the explosion of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other beautiful plants on the land. Gardeners and farmers recognize that pollinators, such as bees, are essential for growing fruits and vegetables and add plants that are supposed to attract bees. However, what many of us do not know is that many of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at many garden stores contain pesticides that actually harm and kill bees.
GMO Inside ally, Friends of the Earth, released a report today about their study showing that over half of the garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers (Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained pesticides called neonicotinoids. More and more evidence is indicting these pesticides as one of the causes for bee colony collapse disorder. All of the samples where neonicotinoids were detected could cause sub-lethal effects (on immunity, memory, reproduction) and death in bees. Forty percent of the positive samples contained two or more neonicotinoids, and some samples contained very high levels in excess of the lethal dose for honey bees.
Also concerning is none of the plants had labels stating they contained pesticides. Therefore, people who are trying to decorate their yards, enjoy nature, help the bees, and increase pollinators might actually be unknowingly harming bees.
While “bees” often annoy us at cookouts buzzing around our food and offering a sting, we must realize those are usually not even honey bees but are yellow jackets or wasps. Honey bees are relatively docile and are extremely important to our food supply. Bees and other pollinators are essential for two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday such as almonds, squash, cucumbers, apples, oranges, blueberries, and peaches. One out of every three bites of food we eat is pollinated by honey bees.
Beekeepers have lost an average of 30% of their hives in recent years, with some beekeepers losing all of their hives and many leaving the industry. Farmers are unable to meet their pollination needs for popular crops such as almonds and berries. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world (manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta) and are increasingly implicated for bee deaths. These insecticides can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens, and other stressors while impairing their foraging and feeding abilities, reproduction, and memory. Neonicotinoids are widely used in the US on 140 crops and for cosmetic use in gardens. They can last in soil, water, and the environment for months to years to come.
The European Union realizes the importance of bees and the danger of neonicotinoids and has put a two-year suspension on the most widely used neonicotinoids in an effort to protect bees. A majority of the UK’s largest garden retailers have already voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids. Here in the US, at least 10 nurseries, landscaping companies, and retailers are taking steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores. More than half a million people have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot to stop selling neonicotinoids. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received more than a million public comments urging swift protections for bees. US Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.) and John Conyers (D, Mich.) introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act” to suspend the use of neonicotinoids until the EPA reviews all of the available data. It has 65 cosponsors and is a bi-partisan bill.
You can help the bees and our food.
- Demand that Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other retailers stop selling pesticides and plants pre-treated with pesticides that are poisoning bees.
- Urge Congress and EPA to act to protect bees.
- Buy organic or from farms using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) since organic farming supports 50% more pollinator species than conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture.
- Start plants from seeds that are open-pollinated, have not been treated with pesticides, or choose organic plants for your garden. Get bee-friendly gardening tips at www.BeeAction.org and www.garden4bees.com.
- Avoid the use of systemic bee-toxic pesticides in your garden by using alternative approaches such as providing habitat to attract beneficial insects that prey on pest insects in your garden. If pest pressure is too high, you can use insecticidal soaps or oils and other eco-friendly pest-control products. Get more tips and resources at www.BeeAction.org and www.garden4bees.com.
Shared via GMO Inside.
Growing Cities: A film about urban farming in America
Growing Cities, a new documentary film about urban farming in America has the opportunity to be broadcast on PBS nationwide this fall — if the filmmakers can raise the funds to make the broadcast possible.
InGrowing Cities, filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette travel the country, visiting everything from rooftop farms to backyard chicken coops. They discover urban farming is about more than simply good food. It’s about growing stronger and more vibrant communities, too.
Growing Cities has been an official selection at more than 25 film festivals and screened in more than 200 communities worldwide. A national PBS broadcast would give the film exposure in millions of homes across the nation.
The hurdle the filmmakers now face is to raise $30,000 to sponsor the film’s airing nationally on public television this fall.
“We are so thrilled for this opportunity,” Susman said. “We’d love to continue encouraging people to plant a seed and grow wherever they are. But we need help. We’re young independent filmmakers, so we really depend on others to get this message out there.” They’re enlisting help across the globe by running a Kickstarter project. Their project, which launched June 9, will run for 30 days. It’s the second Kickstarter the team has run; the first, in 2012, was the most successful Kickstarter project ever run in Omaha, NE.
Since Kickstarter is all or nothing, the project must meet its goal of $30,000 by July 9 for the filmmakers to receive any of the funds pledged.
“If this Kickstarter is successful,” Susman said, “we believe this is the chance to spread the Good Food Movement further than ever.”
Learn more about their Kickstarter here. The film must raise $30k in 30 days.
Shared via GMO Inside.
The season of charcoal smells and checkered tablecloths has begun. It’s a great time to get together with family and friends to share laughs and delicious food. However, there may be an uninvited guest at your picnic or BBQ – GMOs. Unfortunately, almost everything on our typical plate is likely to have some GM ingredients, from the ketchup to the bun. Sometimes these GMOs are disguised and, unfortunately, often overlooked.
Adding to the discreet infiltration of GMOs is the fact that meat, dairy, and eggs– even though not genetically modified themselves–are produced using GMOs. Corn and soy make up the majority of animal feed in the US. With 88% of corn and 93% of soy in the US grown genetically modified, our farm animals are raised on GMOs. Animals, like humans, are deeply impacted by the quality of their diets. A 2013 study showed that pigs fed an entirely GMO diet suffered from severe stomach inflammation when compared to pigs given non-GMO feed. Their GMO-fed bodies are then turned into food for us.
Before you head off to your Fourth of July picnics and BBQs, review the items below for likely GM ingredients and tasty non-GMO alternatives. Then, share the knowledge. While the topic of GMOs has hit the mainstream, not everyone knows all the facts or understands the destruction GMOs are causing to our planet and our bodies. Use this picnic season as an opportunity to talk to your loved ones about GMOs.GMO Picnic Items (and Better Options) Buns – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cottonseed Fiber, Vegetable Oil (Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oils), Distilled Vinegar (often derived from corn), Mono and diglyceride (often derived from soybean, cottonseed, corn, canola), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (stearic acid maybe from soy), DATEM (usually derived from soy or canola oil), Maltodextrin (maybe from corn), Corn Starch, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour
- Non-GMO/organic option: Rudi’s Bakery, Berlin Natural Bakery, Pamela’s Products, Ener-G Foods, Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery, local bakery
Veggie Burger (meat-free) – Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Protein Concentrate), Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Dextrose, Soy Protein Isolate, Natural And Artificial Flavors From Non-Meat Sources, Maltodextrin, Soy Sauce, Soy Lecithin
- Non-GMO/organic option: Sunshine Burgers (also wheat-free and vegan!), Hilary’s Eat Well Burgers (also gluten-free and vegan!), Amy’s Veggie Burgers (also vegan options)
Meat Burger - Cows Fed Corn and Soy Silage
- Non-GMO/organic option: Cows raised on an actual farm, allowed to graze, and fed roughage. Applegate Organic Beef and Turkey Burgers, Organic Prairie Organic Burgers (Organic Valley), check out your local farmers market
Hot Dog – Mechanically Separated Turkey (fed GMOs), Mechanically Separated Chicken (fed GMOs), Pork (fed GMOs), Corn Syrup, Flavor
- Non-GMO/organic option: Applegate Organic Beef and Pork Hot Dogs, Organic Prairie Organic Hot Dogs (Organic Valley), check out your local farmers market
Veggie Hot Dog (meat-free) – Corn Syrup Solids, Methylcellulose (sometimes from corn), Dextrose, Egg Whites, Natural Flavors, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Protein, Soy Protein), Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Soy Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Soybeans, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Soybean Oil, Citric Acid
Sweet Corn – GM varieties entered the market in 2012
- Buy organic!
Ketchup – Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup
- Non-GMO/organic option: Annie’s Organic Ketchup
Mustard – Distilled Vinegar, Natural Flavors
Pickle Relish – Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vinegar, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 80
Mayonnaise – Soybean Oil, Whole Eggs And Egg Yolks, Vinegar, Sugar, Natural Flavors
- Non-GMO/organic option: Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Woodstock Mayonnaise, Earth Balance Mindful Mayo
Processed Cheese – Milk (cows fed GMOs), Whey, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Enzymes
- Non-GMO/organic option: Organic Valley cheese, Rumiano Family cheese, Daiya Dairy-Free cheese (vegan!), any organic cheese
Chips – Soybean oil and/or Canola oil; Corn if corn chips; possibly Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, and many more depending on chip flavor
Soda – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor
The Fossil Free Index tracks the stock market’s performance, minus the oil, gas, and coal industries.
Given the link between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, financial professionals are increasingly searching for investment opportunities that exclude oil, gas, and coal companies. Fossil-Free Indexes LLC (FFI), an environmental, social, and governance index and research company released its first broad American market fossil-free index last week. The announcement of the new index is a timely contribution to the growing fossil fuel company divestment movement across the country. Market indices represent the value of an entire stock market at a single moment, and may be used to track changes over time. The Fossil-Free Index is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, omitting any fossil fuel companies identified by FFI’s “The Carbon Underground 200,” a proprietary list cataloguing some of the most carbon-intensive investment options.
The release of the index, coming in the same week as the Rhodium Group’s “Risky Business” report on the broad economic effects of climate change, strengthens the message that a warming globe is most certainly not good for businesses. As rising temperatures and more intense weather events become commonplace, so do the risks of damage to critical infrastructure and natural resources. By seeking out opportunities for economic growth while minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions (by decentivizing them altogether), investors can help shift focus away from climate- damaging fossil fuels, and towards efficient, clean, and renewable sources of energy.
The release of the index supports the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, with concerned investors of all ages urging the managers of pension funds, university endowments, and other large institutions to cease investment in companies that continue to burn fossil fuels as if there were no negative consequences. Divestment has been a powerful agent of change in the past – in the mid-1980s, enough global pressure was applied to South African companies that the government was compelled to end its policy of racial apartheid. Advocates tout the effectiveness of withholding investment from companies that support harmful practices and building a broad movement for change.
The founder and CEO of FFI, Stuart Braman, states that “Our products will be common-sense, accessible, low-risk options for institutions and individuals to help protect the planet along with their investments.” A reliable fossil-free index is a crucial step in today’s divestment movement. It comes at a critical moment for renewable energy in our country – in the first third of 2014, the US produced 14% of its electricity from renewable sources. The FFI will ensure that protecting your money and your planet are not mutually exclusive, and that we continue on a path with fewer fossil fuels, and more clean energy. To learn more about fossil-free investing, visit www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree