Investing, divesting & the Big Shift

On 19th November Judith Allinson attended the following event and presents her own draft notes:-

Skill up day:
Church divestment and investment for a zero-carbon economy

oganised by Operation Noah and Quaker Peace & Social Witness and held at Friends House, Euston.

I learned so much, that all I can do on this page is write some notes, highlights and weblinks. This might be helpful to some of you who would have liked to attend but could not go.

Arrive and People
Introduction (with Sunniva Taylor) – who was there
Alex Mabbs – Brighthelm Church –
James Buchanan introduced the panel
Seb Beloe, Head of Research at WHEB Asset Management
Sarah Rowe, Campaigns Officer at Christian Aid
Jamie Hartzell, Founder and Chair of Ethex
Ben Pearce, Director of Power Up North London
Workshops and discussion
Carbon footprint of individual funds
Journey Home
To Do


I braved the glazed sheet ice on the platform of Giggleswick Station at 7am in Yorkshire, earlier sleet having just frozen, and was pleased I could make it down to London by train  to Euston.  I was into the meeting at at 11.10, less than 10 minutes from stepping off the train.

I hoped to learn skills, and hoped to get up to date, and I hoped to have something to write on this website.

I did all the above and am also  inspired to make a display at my local church hall about The Big Shift.. though still ruminating on how I can make it “attractive and appealing” since it will involve taking down my display of A3 aerial photos of the Yorkshire Dales. Any suggestions?

So who did I meet, what was it like and what did I learn?

There were about 30 or 40 people there – enough to make it worthwhile putting the meeting on, but also small enough to get an idea of who most of the people were, especially when we broke up into the two workshops. Over half were Quakers. There were a few Anglicans. There were quite a few URC people. I think I was the only Methodist. There was a man from a free evangelical church.

I was pleased to meet Ruth Jarman of Green Christian and Sister Louisa Poole, (who represents  the Catholic Bishops’ Conference on the Environmental Issues (EIN)  committee).  Sunniva Taylor of Quakers and of EIN was giving the Introduction as I entered ( the opening time had been 10.30am).  I later met Ann P (a Green Christian Member) and there were quite a few people who receive GC E-News. There was a Quaker lady from Ilkely and a URC lady form Leeds.

Sunniva Taylor was giving the introduction

She asked how many people were already involved in campaigning about Climate change in some way and about 70% of the people put their hands up.

When asked about Trump she said “Some might be enlivened by the fight. But all we can do is act as our prayers call on us and hope it will bear fruit.”

Sunniva gave us some facts:

$3.4 trillion assets have already been moved out of fossil fuel industries, by university councils, cities and churches.

Year   Church started to divest
2013   Quakers
2014   Church of Sweden,  World Council of Churches
2015   URC in Scotland
2016   Church of South Africa
2016   Efforts have been made to encourage the Cof E and the Methodist Chruch to divest. They have both divested from Tar Sands investments, but no more   They say they prefer to “engage” with the industries. (People at our meeting and others think “engagement at Shareholder meetings is mostly is a “swamp” and is a waste of time. We don’t have time.) The Meth Ch has also disinvested from Glencore.

Sunniva explained how some church organisations start at the local level and work up to the national and that other make decisions at the top/centre and then things spread to local churches.

Alex Mabbs told us about his church –
Brighthelm in Brighton which is the first UK church to have divested.

He quoted from the bible – Put our treasure where our heart is.

and said that “Every being is valuable to God.”

They had taken £18,000 pounds that they had had invested in fossil fuel type shares..They had used quite a lot of the money for making their church mores sustainable environmentally.


Alex said his church was run by trustees and that the money was manged by a broker. The trustees did not have to be experts. They just said to the broker “Sell BP, Sell RTZ” and then let the broker invest in what he thought was good.  (be it renewable energy or socially good funds) They have and extra website:-

James Buchanan of Operation Noah introduced the Panel


I had last chatted to him when we shared adjacent stalls at Greenbelt in August.

He (centre) introduced the Panel:

In the afternoon there would be  two workshops to focus on campaigning and how to divest and reinvest in practice.

Seb Beloe, Head of Research at WHEB Asset Management

Seb quoted Josph Schumpeter 1883 to 1950 – that “Creative destruction” was an essential fact of capitalism – that new technologies arose which replaced old ones. He had a picture of a CD being replaced by a minidisc then an MP3 player. (I wondered too about floppy discs and tapes that had preceded these..)

He said that socially responsible funds would give just as good returns and even better returns than average funds.

He then produced graphs showing the  share value of established energy companies EON and RWE – and showed how their share values were going down, even though the share price in Germany of most things were going up. These were once thought to be stable businesses.

“Coal is no longer competitive”  he said. “Trump may be going for it, but it is just delaying its death.”

He showed a graph of the price of various forms of energy.

It was economic sense to disinvest in fossil fuels, and to invest in sustainable energy.

Sarah Rowe from Christian Aid

She explained about the campaign the Big Shift.

I later saw a hard copy of a Christian Aid Publication:

“Our Future in their Plans” published November 2016 – you can download it here
which I read on the train home and it is excellent.

She showed a nice picture of a lady sunflower farmer in Burundi who with Christian Aid’s help and business training had earned enough money to build a new (small) house and a solar panel, so that her daughter had light in the evening to do her homework.  She had Proverbs 19.11 written on the wall. Burundi is a country that depends on agriculture and will be very affected by climate change.

Why the Big Shift campaign?

The temperature is going up. (This year will again have the record of being the hottest year – even hotter than last year. The Paris talks aimed to keep the temperature rise down to 2 degrees.

 Degrees C Temperature rise
2.7 What is much more likely to happen
2 What Paris Talks aimed for
1.5 What poor countries demand

The Global South needs 4 trillion dollars to clean their infrastucture.

To put this in context the UK banks manage 5 trillion dollars of assets – They are using this money to invest in Coal fired power stations in India whereas it would be much better if they were using it to invest in solar power.  And they lack clear plans on how they are going to change.

There is less transparency about Private finance.

It is OUR money they are lending.

They are lending it to companies without knowing what the companies are doing with it.

Many companies use lots of fossil fuels (without being fossil fuel producers themselves)

The worlds poorest peoples have neither savings nor pensions.

Jamie Hartzell, Founder and Chair of Ethex

Jamie had started by being a documentary film maker. Then he had developed Divine Fairtrade Chocolate, and until recently Zaytoun Fairtrade products from Palestine.

Most ethical funds are just screening funds which make sure they don not invest in certain products such as alcohol, tobacco etc.

Ethex is a platform

Ethex offers you both a comprehensive analysis of positive investment opportunities, a way to find out about the businesses behind them and how to invest in them. It is the closest thing to an Ethical Stock Exchange to be found in the UK.

You can raise funds to catalyze your own community.

Ben Pearce, Director of Power Up North London

Told us about efforts to raise money including through crowd funding.  He spoke about a community energy project in which Power Up North London partnered with St Anne’s Church in Highgate to install solar panels on the church roof.

Workshops and discussionbrightnow-questions-james-1-cropped-b-360

We then briefly introduced ourselves.

One person said not enough had been said about our unbridled capitalist system. She said “Even if we had transferred to renewables, we would still be walking to the precipice.”

I (later) said  “I am concerned that once we  have lots of renewables, energy will be cheaper and will not be so limiting – so that we will then be exploiting other environment features and causing even more pollution.”

brightnow-group-19-nov-400Alban Thurston told us about the website This deals with Council Pension funds. A guardian article last year had given how much each county council invests in fossil fuel industries in their pension funds – which is a LOT of money. He urged us all to visit it.

‘James Buchanan spoke about Operation Noah’s Bright Now campaign, including the position taken by the different churches regarding divestment and reinvestment’.


Carbon footprints of individual Funds – this is my addition to this post

I have tried to find out data on this. It is very hard to do this. (Skip straight to the table if you wish)

1. Quakers

Simon Bond from Quakers had some slides. I took pquaker-portfolio-400hotos of them but have not had time to digest them.

He did show one slide however (see above):

so investing £100,000 in “average shares – benchmark shares” causes 245 CO2/Greenhouse gas to be produced per year.

After the Quakers had disinvested in Fossil fuels, an investment of 100,000 would produce “only” 116 tonnes CO2 per year.


2. Trucost survey

It reminded me of the Trucost survey of 2006 It said “The impact of moving a £10,000 investment from the worst fund to the best is 14 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The average UK household emits 6 tonnes of CO2 per annum. ” (The household may emit 6 tonnes, but an individual with transport to work and work etc has a footprint of 10 to 15 tonnes. e.g. Lancaster University has a footprint of 8 tonnes for each of its students and members of staff)


The FTSE Allshare was 1133 tonnes per £1000,000

These figures don’t really tie up. (even allowing for the fact that £100,000 was worth 33% more in 2006 as it is now)

3. Fossilfreefunds

Where as  give figures for american funds int the range of 11 to 90 tonnes COe2 per $1000,000 which in terms of pounds i 16 to 110 tonnes CO2 per £1000,000 (It all depends on the exchange rate)

Bringing this down to the scale of what an individual may have free to invest

And Multiplying by the relevant factor to make the figure relavant to £1000,000 in 2016 currency (not 2006 currency which was worth 1.35 times more, or American currency, and not sure whether to use £1 = $.8 or $.6

1,000,000 £10,000 £15,000 £100,000
Trucost 2006    (£1000,000 in 2006)        
Scottish Widows Investment Partnership UK 
& Income ICVC – Environmental Investor
334 1.35 4.509 6.7635 45.09
F&C Stewardship Investment Funds ICVC-Stewardship Growth p  694 1.35 9.369 14.0535 93.69
FTSE AllShare 1133 1.35 15.2955 22.94325 152.955
 Quaker (£1000,000 in 2016)        
Benchmark 245 1 2.45 3.675 24.5
Quaker portfolio 116 1 1.16 1.74 11.6
Fossilfree ($1000,000)        
Parnassus Endeavor Investor 21 1.25 0.2625 0.39375 2.625
 S&P 500 benchmark. 129 1.25 1.6125 2.41875 16.125

There does seem to be an order of magnitude difference for some of these sources.

Still however you look at it

If one lives in the UK and has a footprint of 15 tonnes (very bad) and is trying t reduce it to 10 tonnes (still  bad, but doable)

or better, to the world average of 3 tonnes (And that is what Our government has committed us to by 2050

(whether by giving up airflights say 3 to 6 tonnes per return trip)  or saving 1 tonne by adopting a low meat diet or 2 tonnes by adopting a vegan diet,

then one’s investments (for those of us lucky enough to have them) have a huge effect.

Even if its just sitting in a current bank account whilst you wait to decide what to do with it.

Journey Home

I had enough time to buy a Webuser magazine before boarding the train home. I used the journey to write up my notes and read the Christian Aid report “Our Future in their Plans” published November 2016

I met a  student of Architecture returning to Glasgow. I told her about my meeting, and she told me how they were encouraged to think of using materials other than concrete for building.  e.g. “Mud”. Concrete has a HUGE carbon footprint (Yes wikipedia showed me that 5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from making concrete.)

The train sat on the platform at Preston for 30 minutes due to the lack of a driver (because of an incident earlier in the day on the line north, which meant that all the drivers coming from Scotland were delayed. They change drivers at Preston.)  At Lancaster the last train for Giggleswick having gone, the railway company kindly arranged a taxi and I had a pleasant conversation with the driver back to Giggleswick.

To Do:

Email your bank today

John The Big Shift

Become a Bright Now Champion and take action on divestment and reinvestment in your church

Find out where the savings in your church are invested.



See report of the day on Bright Now/Operation Noah website





Author: | Date: 21 November, 2016 | Category: Climate Change | Comments: 0

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