This manual is for faith-based institutions concerned with how their investments align with their mission and vision, particularly in light of global climate change.
While referencing Catholic Social Teaching, this guide is for any institution that shares concerns around addressing the moral challenge of climate change expressed by Pope Francis in Laudato Si.
The toolkit addresses Canadian specific concerns by examining the role of investments in Canada’s energy sector while assessing a Canadian faith-based response to challenges inherent with those investments.
Climate Change: Everything is Connected
The climate is changing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides comprehensive reports on the extent and the effects of these changes. While the IPCC has always pointed to the seriousness of climate change, their most recent report shows that if climate change is not mitigated, the result will be climate disaster.
Many habitats are at risk, including those of species of insects, birds, plants, fish, and large animals. While some species can seek out new territories, many others cannot. Those who cannot move must adapt to new conditions or become extinct. If climate change continues unabated, much of the earth will become uninhabitable. When the climate and biodiversity of the Earth are threatened, so too are human habitats.
It is the quantity of CO₂ in our atmosphere that requires our most urgent and immediate attention. While CO₂’s retention of energy in the form of heat is what makes our earth habitable, an overabundance of atmospheric CO₂ is increasing the earth’s temperature. Atmospheric CO₂ concentration has grown since 1958 from 315 parts per million (ppm) to 416.71 ppm (Global Monitoring Laboratory - Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases (noaa.gov)). To put this in perspective, consider that before the industrial revolution the CO₂ in our atmosphere measured at only 280 ppm. By burning fossil fuels, we continue to increase atmospheric CO₂. This increases temperatures and creates new climate conditions.
Because it takes time for these changes to move through the climate system, we have not yet seen the full ramifications of the CO₂ that we have added to our atmosphere. The heat energy retained by fossil fuel emissions moves through the climate system, altering air currents, melting glaciers, thawing permafrost, increasing surface temperature, redirecting ocean currents, and wreaking havoc on precipitation and drought patterns. Scientists who monitor the climate warn that these changes have led to storms, heat waves and wildfires becoming both more frequent and more intense. We cannot yet undo the damage that we have already done. Consequently, we must not only adapt to the coming changes, if we want to save ourselves and preserve the planet’s biodiversity, we must stop contributing to them.
"If we destroy creation, creation will destroy us"
Learn more about climate change and why we are calling for urgent action.
United Nations Climate Change Reports
The most up-to-date resource to learn about climate science, solutions, reports, initiatives, thought leadership and more.
Book a Climate Presentation
If you would like more information about the scientific basis of climate change, check out Dr. Dianne Saxe’s website and speaker service, SaxeFacts.
"Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God."
Caring for our Common Home: An Essential Catholic Value
In Laudato Si’: On Care of our Common Home, Pope Francis calls on us to protect the earth. He describes the devastation wrought by the climate crisis and reminds us that the climate is a common good, essential for all. Pope Francis criticizes consumerism and environmental degradation and calls on us to unite in swift action. Laudato Si' is pivotal to Catholic social teaching as it positions environmentalism alongside justice and dignity as a fundamental Catholic principle.
Laudato Si’ stands firmly on the foundation of dignity. Simply being human establishes your dignity and marks you as deserving of respect. Human life is worthy of protection throughout the lifespan, regardless of our diverse characteristics. Climate change is a great threat to human life and safety, making it a respect for life issue.
The unbridled use of fossil fuels by the global north has created disproportionate harm to our human family in the global south. As personhood is both sacred and social, people have the right to participate in society and to grow within a community. However, this right is being infringed upon as human habitats are destroyed and people are displaced from their communities by climate change.
For the common good to prevail, preferential protection must be given to the poor and the vulnerable, both at home and globally. As the principle of solidarity means that we are each other's keepers, we must stop placing our own wants over the right to dignity of our global neighbors.
"The empowerment of Indigenous people is really vital to the restoration and guardianship of critical ecosystems."
We show respect for our Creator by stewardship of creation as managers, not as owners. However, as a society, we have been on a destructive quest to dominate both nature and those around us. Using the powerless for their own advantage, the powerful have not treated everybody equally or with dignity. However, subsidiarity says that those who can manage an issue, and those who are closest to that issue, are the correct people to do so. Laudato Si’ urges us to open our hearts and minds to local and Indigenous understandings of the land around us.
Addressing climate change allows us to collaborate with one another as managers of creation. For all people to realize their potential as caretakers, of both each other and the earth, the climate as a common good must be promoted across all regions. Community involvement and concern for one another can help us to overcome unbridled individualism and bring us nearer to sustainability and peace. Together, we can address climate change with the deliberate use of our monetary resources to effect change.
"Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience"
Money Drives Change
"Impact investment has the potential to transform capitalism and turn one of our greatest resources into a force for solving problems rather than creating them."
We live in a world where money drives change. You can use your investments to help the climate and drive positive change by investing in a way that reflects your values and aligns with your mission. Many investment managers have a “do no harm” policy, but to go a step further, you can ask your money manager to embrace a “make positive change” policy by using impact investment. This is the deliberate use of investment capital to promote positive social and environmental change. These investments can be structured in a way that results in a positive financial return. Do well by doing good.
When choosing investments, choose an impact-profit connection. Many organizations seek what the Catherine Donnelly Foundation refers to as, integrity of return, meaning they invest in businesses that are linked to their desired impact. When an investment’s revenue-generating activities are also its impact generating activities, impact and profit grow simultaneously. By divesting from fossil fuels, you will free up capital to invest for your intended impact. See the Catherine Donnelly Foundation’s Impactful Investment document to learn more about impact investing.
"We call on bishops and Church leaders to accelerate the implementation of Laudato Si’ by adopting ethical investment guidelines driving assets away from fossil fuels (“divestment”) given that . . . we need to “keep most fossil fuels underground."
Pivoting Away from Fossil Fuel
We can remove our support from the fossil fuel industry by divesting. Fossil fuel divestment is the act of removing asset classes associated with fossil fuel from your portfolio.
This can include:
- exiting direct ownership agreements
- selling shares
- liquidating commingled mutual funds containing shares
- selling corporate bonds associated with fossil fuel companies.
Divesting from fossil fuels frees up capital to invest in the success of companies that share your values and are working towards green solutions to our climate crisis.
The Power of Divestment
1. Removes Support
Divestment removes monetary support for fossil fuel companies and redeploys the money to other parts of the economy.
2. Removes “Social License”
Divestment sends an economic signal that there is significant lack of confidence in the fossil fuel sector to employ necessary changes. The withdrawal of social license decreases product demand.
3. Creates A Change Of Attitude
Divestment, and the public engagement it involves, is a way to redefine society’s moral code. Divestment is used to delegitimize an unjust industry and create a moral turning point within society.
4. Emboldens Leaders
Divestment emboldens political leaders to address important issues surrounding climate change.
When organizations make a public divestment statement, they call into question the ability of fossil fuel companies to transition their business models. Pope Francis is unequivocal about divestment. In this Countdown TEDtalk he states, “One way to encourage this change is to lead businesses towards the urgent need to commit themselves to the integral care of our common home, excluding from investments those companies that do not meet the parameters of integral ecology.” Divestment is a pragmatic and essential transition of funds to critical renewable energy systems. It will not only help us to achieve a clean energy transition, it is necessary in the face of intractable resistance to shifting our economy towards renewable energy.
Pledge Your Commitment
Make your commitment to divest public with the Laudato Si’ Movement (formerly Global Catholic Climate Movement).
Bill McKibbon wrote “When Peabody Energy, the largest American coal company, filed for bankruptcy in 2016, it cited divestment as one of the pressures weighing on its business, and Shell called divestment a ‘material adverse effect’ on its performance.
To date over 300 Catholic institutions have divested and are among the most numerous in the divestment movement. Overall, the movement has moved an estimated $18.2 trillion away from fossil fuels.