Large Institutions Continue to Get Pressure To Disclose and Divest

Harvard Forward Students          Photo: Ryan N. Gajarawala, Harvard Crimson

Senator Elizabeth Warren continues to push for greater transparency in corporate reporting documents so that shareholders and the public can get meaningful information about climate risks facing companies. Similarly, large institutions are also being pressured by shareholders and stakeholders to divest from fossil fuels in order to lower their climate risks.  Last week, the Harvard Crimson reported that there is now a “sister” organization to Harvard Forward called YaleForward working to elect young alumni to Yale’s main governance boards in order to raise climate issues and divestment with university leadership.

Why This Matters:  The pressure is having an impact.  Harvard announced last week that its endowment would be “carbon neutral” by 2050 but does not go enough for climate-conscious students, faculty, and alums.  Other universities such as Georgetown and Brown have pledged to divest from fossil fuels in much shorter time frames.  Indeed, Senator Warren explains why climate change should matter to every large institution and corporation — “’the current value of direct private investor losses globally due to the physical risks of climate change is between $4.2 trillion and $13.8 trillion, depending on the warming scenario’ and that climate change may lead to ‘permanent damage that would far eclipse the scale of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.’”  Oh, and, Go Yale Forward!  Boola Boola!

Senator Warren’s Proposal

Senator Warren has sponsored legislation that would create a rigorous and standardized climate disclosure regime in order to ensure that public companies disclose their climate-related risks so investors can accurately assess them before buying or selling stock in that company.  All public companies would have to disclose, among other relevant information, their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, assets related to fossil fuel that they own or manage, how the company’s financial valuations would be affected under various climate scenarios, and the company’s risk management strategies related to the physical and transition climate change risks.  The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently looking at changes to its corporate disclosure requirements — but it is unlikely that this Administration would require climate disclosures absent a legislative requirement.

Yale Forward

According to The Crimson, Yale’s Board of Trustees consists of  Yale’s president plus 16 trustees, and the goal of Yale Forward is to get 2015 alum Maggie Thomas elected to the Board.  Thomas said in a press release that she believes Yale University has the “potential to be a champion of light and truth” in fighting climate change and that her goal is “to work towards that future together.”  Specifically, she is campaigning on a platform of fossil fuel divestment, more robust processes for developing socially-responsible investment guidelines, and increased support for climate-focused research and education.” The campaign also calls for “the elimination of the five-year disenfranchisement rule for Yale College alumni—who are barred from voting in Corporation elections until they have held their degrees for more than five years—and for increased transparency around the operations of the Corporation.”

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