I 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:
- I felt it was my responsibility to contribute to a low-carbon future, and
- 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.
If you have a personal divestment story to share with us, please get in touch.
UCT campaign ongoing, divestment march on campus on Tuesday 11 October
Our continuing campaign at UCT has moved the university to develop a draft ethical investment policy. If approved, that policy will create the channels for UCT to consider a commitment to divestment. The university’s ethical investment task team meets again this Thursday.
- To keep up the pressure on UCT,
we are planning a march calling again on the university to divest. The march will start at the ACDI building at 1pm on Tuesday 11 October. Mpho Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has indicated she will do her best to attend and support. Note: Unfortunately, due to the closure of the UCT campus, this march had to be cancelled.
- In preparation, there will be a screening of the 350.org divestment documentary Do the Math on Monday, 12 Sept at 6pm, EGS studio 1. (All welcome, please bring snacks.)
Divest-Reinvest webinar hosted by Global Catholic Climate Movement
For those who would like to learn more about divestment, the Global Catholic Climate Movement is hosting an online webinar tomorrow at 2–3.30pm SA time. You don’t have to be Catholic to register, and while there’ll no doubt be a faith-based angle to it, lots for all of us to learn. Register here.
- Later this year (details TBC), we are planning a workshop on how South African investors can start finding ways to divest, and how we can push for ethical/divested options in South Africa. Please get in touch if you wish to contribute, or suggest contributors.
- 350.org is hosting a national student summit on divestment in Johannesburg later this month (UCT students are attending.) Contact Ahmed Mokgopo (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
- The most recent university to divest is the Queensland University of Technology, which announced its plans last Friday. As ever, Jeremy Leggett provides excellent updates on the progress of the ‘Carbon War’.
- If you’re associated with UCT and would like to publicly endorse the 2015 letter of the UCT ACDI Masters Class urging divestment, please read and sign up.
- We have 18A tax exempt status now – please consider starting a R50 or R100 monthly stop order in our favour. Our deep thanks to those who have already done so. Please contact Rob (email@example.com) for a tax certificate.
- If you’d like to set up your own campus divestment campaign, please contact us, or consult this useful starter guide.