BY ISN STAFF | February 26, 2020
The Jesuit Province of Britain (publicly referred to as the “Jesuits in Britain”) announced today they are divesting from companies whose major income is from the extraction of fossil fuels. The Jesuits are the largest Catholic religious order in the United Kingdom to join the global divestment movement. The Jesuits in Britain have equity investments of about £400 million (approximately 516 million USD) used to finance works and projects in Britain and around the world. The assets are under the management of three equity fund managers and will be fully divested by the end of 2020, with more than half of that divestment process already completed. The British Province includes England, Wales, Scotland, and Guyana.
In making the divestment announcement, Very Rev. Damian Howard, S.J., provincial of the Jesuit Province of Britain, identified climate change as “the most pressing challenge the world faces.” According to Howard, the decision to divest is “a response to the clear moral imperative of acting to safeguard our planet for future generations at a time when scientific evidence is mounting that we are facing a grave climate emergency.” Howard continued, saying, “All our institutions need to respond to this ecological crisis and take bold action to reduce energy use and switch to renewable sources. Large-scale investors should be doing everything possible to help avert the severe consequences that could result if adequate measures are not taken.”
The decision aligns the Jesuits in Britain with a global movement of divesting institutions with a combined value of more than $14 trillion in assets under management, up from a starting point of $50 billion just five years ago. The Jesuit Province of English Canada (today a part of the Jesuit Province of Canada) announced a similar divestment measure in 2016. More recently, Georgetown University became the first Jesuit university in the U.S. to commit to fossil fuel divestment, announcing earlier this month that the school’s public securities of fossil fuel companies would be divested within the next five years and from existing private investments in those companies over the next 10 years. Also, on February 18, Creighton University announced it would reduce its “investment exposure to fossil fuel companies” to 5.7 percent of its investment portfolio—a 3.2 percentage point decrease.
In September 2019, 15 Catholic institutions including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Caritas agencies in Italy, Singapore, Australia, and Norway announced their divestment. A worldwide Catholic divestment campaign has been led by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.