Divestment stories

Robert Armstrong: A South African fossil fuel divestment story

RobertArmstrongI work in the natural & organic retail industry, where we promote and offer products we believe lead to a healthy lifestyle. Our aim is to provide products and services that are healthy for people as well as for the planet. To do this, we try to source organically farmed or naturally sourced products, and wherever we can, reduce our carbon footprint.

As a conscious retailer, I decided to look at my savings/ share portfolio for ways to reduce my personal footprint further. I was also able to look at a family member’s portfolio, and unsurprisingly found that being a South African invested in the JSE, it was heavily weighted to mining and carbon-intensive companies like Sasol.

So, fortunately, after a conversation about the damaging impacts that companies like Anglo American, BHP, Exxarro and Sasol have on the planet, we decided to divest from these companies. And thankfully, resources like Fossil Free SA and 350Africa.org help to inform and guide us on the problems and solutions to climate change. The question, then, was where should our funds be invested where we can have peace of mind that the vehicles/equities/bonds that were invested in were ethical and not damaging our environment?

The options thus far have been very limited in South Africa. We would love to see more offerings on the local market. For now, we have chosen the Nedbank Green Savings Bond as well as a small exploratory holding in the Sun Exchange (local) and Lend-a-Hand Ethex (UK).

Note: Our profiles of ethical South African investors are not intended as investment advice, but as inspiration for undertaking your own fossil fuel divestment and ethical investment journey. If you have a personal divestment story to share with us, please get in touch

Kevin Coldrey: A personal South African divestment story

KevinColdreyI am an economist by training and worked in the industry for almost a decade before making the decision to change career paths. I am currently furthering my studies, this time focusing on climate change and sustainable development. I hope to use my experience in the corporate sector to drive the change that is needed, looking for ways to incentivise behaviour change financially.

Between 12 and 18 months ago I decided to divest out of fossil fuel-based companies as best I could. I was at the time invested in a resources unit trust in SA, a general equity unit trust in SA, a private share portfolio of SA stocks, and two separate offshore unit trusts.

The decision was based on two factors:

  1. I felt it was my responsibility to contribute to a low-carbon future, and
  2. the returns that I was earning through holding shares like Sasol was being hampered by the commodity downturn; and my outlook for the global energy economy was, and still is, that we will never see the same prices for fossil fuels as we had in the lead up to the global financial crisis because I believe we have turned a corner in renewable energy generation.

My divestment process was hampered by the limited options available to retail investors but I did the following:

  • I sold my holdings in the resources and general equity unit trusts in SA (the general equity unit trust included significant holdings in the likes of Sasol, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, etc).
  • I sold my private shares in fossil fuel-based companies.
  • I kept my two offshore investments as I wanted to hedge my exposure to the Rand which I still believe is due for a further devaluation.
  • I invested in the Nedbank Green Savings Bond which is a guaranteed fixed investment vehicle where all capital raised is earmarked for renewable energy projects in SA.
  • I bought shares for my private portfolio that I felt were less carbon-intensive and where I felt that they were operating in industries that will become more important in the future such as water and agriculture.

Note: Our profiles of ethical South African investors are not intended as investment advice, but as inspiration for undertaking your own fossil fuel divestment and ethical investment journey. If you have a personal divestment story to share with us, please get in touch