By Eva Stimson, Office of the General Assembly.
One of the most closely watched debates at the last two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assemblies concerned whether or not the church should stop investing in fossil fuel companies. In June the 222nd General Assembly (2016) rejected an overture calling for immediate divestment, voting instead to continue a process of corporate engagement with energy companies for at least two more years.
The engagement process could lead to selective, phased divestment from companies that do not show significant progress in adopting environmentally responsible practices between now and the 223rd General Assembly (2018).
As the dust settled from the debate, leaders of PC(USA) bodies overseeing the denomination’s corporate engagement activities and financial investments were busy pursuing strategies to leverage church financial holdings to address environmental concerns.
“Our role is to influence big-picture change,” said Rob Fohr, mission associate for Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), just before boarding a plane to New York City in mid-July to meet with a group of investors working on engaging corporations on environmental responsibility. Getting companies to make care for the environment a priority in their strategic planning is a primary goal of MRTI, he said.
Fohr was headed for a meeting organized by Ceres, an organization that mobilizes networks of companies, investors, and public interest groups to improve strategies on environmental and social challenges across the global economy. Together, the organizations represented by Ceres represent some $24 trillion in investments—a number large enough to get the attention of major corporations.
MRTI also works in partnership with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of nearly 300 organizations seeking to promote sustainable practices and leverage their investments as catalysts for social change.
“We have more clout working with a community of faith-based and values-based investors,” Fohr explained.