Unsustainable Stock: Hold, Divest or Donate?

Sustainable investing isn’t new, but the concept is gaining widespread attention through 350.org’s Do the Math tour— which campaigns to cut off the fossil fuel’s financial and political support by divesting our schools, churches and government from the industry. With that momentum, perhaps it’s time to take a look at our own investments to see if they support companies that are leading the way and making sustainable business decisions.

If you own stock in fossil fuel or other questionable industries, divestment isn’t necessarily the only option. Grist recently addressed this issue in letter to Ask Umbra, who addresses green-living questions, titled “Should I Sell My Exxon Stock?”, and the answer isn’t necessarily simple.

After getting counsel from Jack Robinson, a green-investor pioneer, and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, it appears that you have to know your stock well. If you own enough for your shareholder voice to have some influence (and if the company is responsive to shareholder actions), you could keep it and try to wield some power from your position. But if you don’t own enough stock or the company in which you’ve invested fights against shareholder input, Grist’s Umbra has two recommendations:

Sell. You could, as Robinson points out, “reinvest in a company that’s part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.” Or you could treat yourself to a solar-paneled suit. Whatever you do, you can’t worry about who will buy your stock. The larger point is that you would be part of a growing movement of people and institutions divesting from fossil fuels — a movement that, says Robinson, has enough legs to make it reminiscent of the divestiture effort of the 1980s that helped end apartheid. (See what Grist’s Susie Cagle has to say on why that frequently drawn comparison isn’t quite apt.)

Donate. You won’t get the proceeds, but you will get a tax benefit, plus the joy of supporting an organization that means something to you. McKibben says, “lots of folks have taken to donating their fossil fuel stock” to 350.org.

Mountainfilm in Telluride will also accept any stock donations gladly. If you'd like to go that route, please contact us.

Photo Credits: 

Photo by: Jeremy Baron

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