John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels. The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil announced on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses.
The announcement, timed to precede Tuesday’s opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City, is part of a broader and accelerating initiative.
Rockefeller Brothers Fund President Stephen Heintz said Standard Oil tycoon John D Rockefeller, who built the family fortune in the 19th century, would approve of the move. ‘We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,’ he said.
In recent years, 180 institutions – including philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds and local governments – as well as hundreds of wealthy individual investors have pledged to sell assets tied to fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and to invest in cleaner alternatives. In all, the groups have pledged to divest assets worth more than $50 billion from portfolios, and the individuals more than $1 billion, according to Arabella Advisors, a firm that consults with philanthropists and investors to use their resources to achieve social goals.
One of the higher profile education institution divestments came in May, when Stanford University said it will no longer use any of its $18.7 billion endowment to invest in coalmining companies. But the University of California voted last week to maintain its investments in fossil fuels, frustrating a student-led effort to divest its portfolio in oil, natural gas and coal.
Click here to learn more about the Divest-Invest Philanthropy Initiative.