(By Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service). The past year has been a busy one for the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), from saying goodbye to long-time coordinator Bill Somplatsky-Jarman to watching events unfold in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
New lead staff Rob Fohr says they’ll be busy again this year, adding they are always challenged by the number and variety of issues on which they and their partners engage, with publicly traded corporations. “More specifically, our directive from the 222nd General Assembly on focused engagement with the oil and gas industry will challenge the committee as we develop strategies for effective engagement and standards for measuring progress in those discussions.”
MRTI is a three agency committee that implements the GA policies on faith-based investing. The committee brings together representatives from the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, investing agencies of the Board of Pension and Presbyterian Foundation/New Covenant Trust Company, the advocacy committee on women’s and racial ethnic concerns, the social witness policy committee and three at-large members elected by the General Assembly. It is jointly funded by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions.
Last October, the Synod of the Northeast voted to take immediate steps to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Fohr believes that action will actually help in their dialogues with the fossil fuel companies.
“The fact that the General Assembly voted not to direct the Board of Pensions and the Foundation to divest categorically from fossil fuel companies allows MRTI to stay engaged with these companies from a position of strength,” he said. “However, the fact that other Presbyterian-related entities with invested capital such as mid-councils and congregations are electing to move funds to fossil fuel free products, gives us some leverage to encourage change.”
Fohr says MRTI’s goal is to work with oil and gas companies to adopt policies and strategies that transition them into a low-carbon future.