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Over 100 Organizations Escalate International Climate Campaign on Vanguard

Vanguard receives worst possible score in new climate assessment as NGOs, grassroots groups, and finance experts ramp up pressure to act on climate.
WASHINGTON -

Today, in an open letter to Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley, over 100 organizations representing over 6 million people called on the world’s second-largest asset manager to enact the visionary financial leadership that is needed to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. The letter comes with the launch of Vanguard S.O.S., an international climate campaign made up of civil society organizations, finance experts, grassroots groups, and climate activists, many of whom pushed BlackRock to start tackling its climate problem with the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign

“As one of the biggest shareholders in nearly every public company on the planet, Vanguard has enormous influence it could be wielding for climate action, but so far it has failed to use it,” said Ben Cushing, Fossil-Free Finance Campaign Manager with the Sierra Club. "Vanguard faces a critical test this shareholder season, as every major US bank is facing resolutions pushing them to stop funding the reckless expansion of fossil fuel development. Voting in support of these resolutions would show that Vanguard is taking its role seriously in combating the climate crisis and protecting investors’ long-term savings. If it fails to vote for credible climate action, it'll be clear that Vanguard is stuck in the past, and the pressure on the company will only increase.” 

Vanguard received the worst possible score — zero out of 30 — in a scorecard ranking 30 major asset managers on their climate commitments released this morning by Reclaim Finance. 

“Our new report shows that Vanguard is one of the biggest climate laggards of the asset management industry,” said Lara Cuvelier, Sustainable Investments Campaigner with Reclaim Finance. “Vanguard is one of the top two investors in companies developing new coal projects and holds $130 billion in the 12 biggest oil and gas expansionists, and there is not a single policy in sight from Vanguard to restrict investments in fossil fuel expansion or even use its shareholder voting power to hold the world’s biggest polluters accountable.”

Grassroots pressure is also mounting against Vanguard this week with protests planned in the U.S. and Europe. Activists are targeting the asset manager for its massive investments in fossil fuels, companies driving deforestation, and the harm these investments are causing to vulnerable communities around the world.  

In the Philadelphia area, where Vanguard is headquartered and most company leadership lives, a week-long walk started Monday. Activists and community members are following the money upstream from destructive facilities along the Delaware River to those profiting from these industries. The walk is set to conclude with a protest at the Vanguard headquarters in Malvern, PA on Friday. 

“Not only are Vanguard's investments driving climate chaos globally, they include some of the biggest polluters in the Delaware Valley,” said Eileen Flanagan, Campaign Director with Earth Quaker Action Team, a grassroots, nonviolent action group founded by Philadelphia area Quakers. “Whether we are living on the frontlines of air pollution, students concerned about our future, or Vanguard customers concerned about the wisdom of these investments, we all have a stake in correcting Vanguard’s destructive course.” 

The Vanguard S.O.S. campaign is calling on the finance giant to implement a series of solutions to address the climate crisis and the detrimental impacts of its investments, starting by using its massive shareholder power this spring to vote in favor of climate shareholder resolutions and against corporate boards that are obstructing change. 

In the coming months the campaign will continue to escalate pressure against Vanguard executives to prioritize aggressive action on climate, including focusing on organizing and educating Vanguard customers and employees.

“The second largest asset manager in the world has been flying under the radar while it steers us toward global climate catastrophe. Despite Vanguard’s public commitments on racial and environmental justice, the firm remains one of the biggest investors in coal, oil, and gas — industries that are destroying our planet and polluting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across the U.S. and the Global South,” said Cecilia Behgam, Senior Researcher with the Action Center on Race and the Economy. “Even Vanguard’s so-called ‘socially responsible’ ESG funds invest in polluting and carceral industries, while its ‘charitable’ funds channel money to climate change denial groups and right wing groups fueling bigotry.”

PHOTOS, RESOURCES, MORE INFORMATION

Photos from various grassroots protests will be here when available: https://tinyurl.com/5e76e58u 

The open letter to Vanguard and full list of signers can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/47kxkpnc 

The detailed explanation of the solutions Vanguard S.O.S. is calling for can be seen here: https://vanguard-sos.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/VanguardSOS-Demands.pdf

ADDITIONAL QUOTES

“Vanguard is the quintessential example of an institution that could be doing so much good for the world, and is instead sticking to a business-as-usual mode that is ending in tragedy for the planet and its people,” said Bill McKibben, author and founder of Third Act. “Imagine how blinkered you'd have to be to be earth's second-biggest asset manager and not using that power to help ward off the greatest emergency humans have ever faced. It's tragic--but it's also maddening, and that anger will propel action as people demand accountability." 

“Vanguard is fueling climate colonialism. Its investments are driving deforestation and Indigenous rights violations in the Amazon rainforest and climate chaos across the world, with over $12 billion invested in oil companies operating in the Amazon alone,” said Roshan Krishnan, Climate Finance Campaigner with Amazon Watch. “Indigenous communities across the Amazon basin live under the persistent threat of violence from the extractive corporations that Vanguard doesn’t seem to have a problem pouring billions into. Vanguard must immediately end its investments in these companies, adopt a strong policy respecting Indigenous rights and sovereignty, and direct its investments toward a climate-safe future free of fossil fuels and deforestation." 

“Everyday, workers and union members work hard to ensure their financial future and secure their retirement. Every hour worked means money in their pension funds or workplace retirement plans. These funds are their future, and they trust that they are being invested wisely. But Vanguard’s poor record on climate votes, and investments in climate destroying industries hurt their communities. Vanguard’s continual lack of action on climate poses an enormous systematic risk to our economy,” said Beverly Ortiz, Organizing Director with Climate Finance Action.

“This escalation on Vanguard is only the beginning. In the coming months we will be working to educate and organize Vanguard customers and employees. We want these important stakeholders to understand the extent of Vanguard’s climate problem and the necessary and urgent steps the company must take to protect the investments of their customers, and to protect the planet for everyone,” said Casey Harrell, Senior Strategist with The Sunrise Project.  

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The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.

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