Breaking news:

On March 16th the Cornell University Assembly passed a Resolution calling on TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and from land-grabs which harm indigenous peoples and lead to deforestation.

  This is the first TIAA Divest Resolution passed outside the SUNY system, and the fifth overall. This victory is due to extraordinary leadership by Dr. Caroline Levine, the Faculty Representative who sponsored the Resolution.

In the news: An article covering the TIAA Divest from Climate Destruction campaign’s origins, goals, and early victories, hit the press yesterday, before the victory at Cornell was known. Hat tip to Brian Obach of SUNY New Paltz and to Arvind Dilawar, independent journalist at The River: SUNY Faculty Urge TIAA to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Environmental Racism and TIAA: TIAA is invested in Enbridge, which is building Line 3; in Valero, which is pushing the Byhalia Pipeline through Black low-wealth communities in Memphis who are putting up a fight for their land and drinking water; in Adani, which plans to destroy unceded Aboriginal lands to build a notorious mega coal mine in Australia; in Chevron, which has devastated and refused to clean up its lethal oil mess in Ecuadorian Amazon.

Need we go on? Not right now. But we do need your help so please share news of this campaign widely: with journalists; on social media; and with faculty at institutions of higher education across the U.S. 
To contact the campaign: contact@tiaa-divest.org  
Please follow/like TIAA Divest on Facebook
On Twitter, please search / use hashtag #TIAADivest


For Immediate Release: February 25th, 2021 

Contact:  

Climate Matters: SUNY Cortland Faculty Senate Pushes TIAA to Divest

Passes resolution urging TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and deforestation risk holdings

Cortland, NY – The State University of New York (SUNY) Cortland Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday February 23rd urging financial giant TIAA, which manages SUNY faculty pension fund investments, to divest from fossil fuels and to implement a no- deforestation policy. Two members of the SUNY Cortland faculty, Ross Borden and Chris Badurek, submitted the resolution to the SUNY Cortland Faculty Senate. The statewide SUNY system is TIAA’s largest university client.

Meanwhile, stunning new data released today by Urgewald and 28 NGO partners shows TIAA to be the 8th largest investor in the coal industry in the U.S.[1] TIAA has at least $7.43B invested in fossil fuel companies,[2] according to Fossil Free Funds, and $477M in agribusiness companies involved in land grabs, human rights violations, and deforestation.[3]

Environmental sustainability geographer Chris Badurek, a professor and Faculty Senate  member at SUNY Cortland, commented, “The SUNY Cortland Faculty Senate voted in support of directly addressing the climate crisis. There is no more pressing crisis than the climate crisis. As a higher education institution we are compelled to lead by making transformative changes to our energy economy. SUNY Cortland has made an investment in energy efficiency and in renewable energy sources and today’s resolution further extends this sustainability leadership.”[4]

Ross Borden, a lecturer in English at SUNY Cortland, commented“The faculty of SUNY Cortland is excited to join TIAA Divest! at this crucial moment. We earnestly hope that together with United University Professions (UUP) and other SUNY campuses, we can influence TIAA to choose a new CEO who will commit to a clean environment and a sustainable future.” Roger Ferguson, TIAA’s current CEO, announced he will step down at the end of March.

Deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change, after the burning of fossil fuels, so TIAA’s land-grabs are confronted as well. In Brazil, where TIAA is one of the two largest foreign buyers of land, TIAA land-grabs have thrown traditional communities off their lands. Large tracts of TIAA-owned land in Brazil have gone up in smoke.[5]

The Cortland resolution is the fourth TIAA Divest resolution passed by bodies within the SUNY system in ten weeks. In December, the SUNY New Paltz Faculty Senate and the SUNY New Paltz UUP union chapter passed a resolution that urged TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and to end its harmful deforestation investments. The statewide UUP, which represents faculty and professional staff at all 64 SUNY campuses, passed its resolution in January. It is the largest higher education union in the U.S. 

SUNY Cortland has a solar installation on campus. Since Fall 2013, SUNY Cortland has operated all its facilities – residence halls, dining areas, sports facilities, everything – using 100 percent renewable electrical energy. SUNY Cortland was the first SUNY campus to do so. 

In meetings with the TIAA Divest! campaign in 2020, TIAA “remained intransigent, refused to consider implementing a moratorium on new fossil fuel investments or to divest current fossil fuel investments, and failed to reconsider their deforestation investments in Brazil,” commented Bill Kish, a volunteer organizer with the TIAA Divest! campaign. Kish lives near the polluting Cricket Valley Energy fracked gas power plant, which is partially owned by TIAA.[6]

“In a time when nearly 1 in 5 premature deaths globally are caused by fossil fuel-related air pollution,[7] it is imperative to prevent further lives from being harmed by the fossil fuel industry,” commented Alexandra Crawford, a student leader at SUNY New Paltz. “As a young person, I urge more university campuses to push TIAA to divest. It’s a matter of climate justice.” 

TIAA manages retirement funds for workers in academic, cultural, medical, and other non-profit fields. Beyond SUNY, campuses nationwide are showing an interest in the campaign, including participants from Harvard University, University of North Carolina, New York University, University of Montana, Montana State University, Vassar College, and others. 


[1] Banks & Investors behind the Global Coal Plant Pipeline

Published February 25th, 2021

https://coalexit.org/finance-data

[2] TIAA/Nuveen: 7.43 Billion in Fossil Fuel Investments

https://fossilfreefunds.org/families?q=TIAA%20Investments%2FNuveen

[3] How TIAA/Nuveen is Invested in the Climate Crisis

https://deforestationfreefunds.org/families?q=TIAA%20Investments%2FNuveen

[4] College Commits to Renewable Electricity 

https://www2.cortland.edu/news/detail.dot?id=0a9596c7-7aad-418f-8ee2-33e290ddf29d

[5] TIAA and Harvard’s Brazilian farm deals judged illegal

https://grain.org/en/article/6588-tiaa-and-harvard-s-brazilian-farm-deals-judged-illegal

[6] Five Things Organizers Should Know About the Cricket Valley Fracked Gas Plant

[7] Deaths from fossil fuel emissions higher than previously thought 

https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2021/02/deaths-fossil-fuel-emissions-higher-previously-thought#:~:text=More%20than%208%20million%20people%20died%20in%202018%20from%20fossil,Leicester%20and%20University%20College%20London


For Immediate Release: January 27, 2021

Contact:

  • Alexandra Crawford (917) 513-1343‬ / acrawford589@gmail.com
  • Brian Obach (845) 943-9617 / brianobach@gmail.com
UUP logo

Nation’s Largest Higher Education Union Pushes TIAA to Divest from Fossil Fuels, Deforestation

“The fight for our common future cannot be delayed”: UUP Union President       

NEW YORK – The largest higher education union in the U.S., the United University Professions (UUP), passed a resolution on January 23rd pressing TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and deforestation-risk investments, which worsen climate change. UUP is the union representing faculty and staff across the State University of New York (SUNY) higher education system. TIAA, the giant financial services company, manages retirement funds for most SUNY faculty and staff. In December, both the SUNY New Paltz Faculty Senate and the SUNY New Paltz UUP Chapter passed resolutions urging TIAA to stop funding climate destruction, amidst an increasingly powerful fossil fuel divestment movement.

Fred Kowal, the statewide UUP President, commented, “UUP has taken the absolutely necessary step of calling for TIAA to divest from those companies engaged in exploiting energy sources that are exacerbating the serious climate crisis we’re facing. We are honored to stand with those on the frontlines fighting for true environmental justice. The fight for our common future cannot be delayed or fought with half-way measures. Divestment is an urgent and necessary step.”

Brian Obach, Sociology Professor at SUNY New Paltz, added, “I am so proud that UUP has taken a strong stance in favor of fossil fuel divestment. As a SUNY faculty member with retirement funds managed by TIAA, I am disgusted by the fact that my money is advancing climate change, deforestation, and human rights abuses.”

The resolution condemns TIAA’s $8 billion in investments which harm climate and communities. TIAA has invested $477 million in agribusiness holdings which contribute to deforestation, indigenous rights violations, and environmental degradation[1]. TIAA has invested $7 billion in the fossil fuel industry[2]. UUP’s resolution calls on the SUNY Board of Trustees to “advocate for the divestment of TIAA funds from all fossil fuel holdings,” and to push to end TIAA landholdings “associated with deforestation and human rights abuses.” A Brazilian agency is now challenging TIAA’s land grabs in Brazil[3] as illegal[4], adding further punch to the divestment push.

Ross Borden, a lecturer in English at SUNY Cortland and a member of the SUNY Cortland Faculty Senate, looks to the future: “It’s wonderful news that UUP has joined the TIAA-Divest campaign.  Here’s hoping every SUNY campus will soon join the campaign, following the example of New Paltz and building momentum for public and private universities across the U.S. to divest from catastrophic environmental harms.”

“As a young person, I believe it is vital that we hold financial companies such as TIAA accountable. This resolution is another step towards halting the harm that these investments can have on the environment and on our own communities,” comments Alexandra Crawford, an undergraduate student at SUNY New Paltz.


[1] “How TIAA/Nuveen is Invested in the Climate Crisis” https://deforestationfreefunds.org/families?q=TIAA%20Investments%2FNuveen

[2] ibid

[3] “Harvard and TIAA’s Land Goes Up in Smoke” https://www.grain.org/en/article/6339-harvard-and-tiaa-s-farmland-grab-in-brazil-goes-up-in-smoke

[4] “U.S. Pension Fund TIAA Embroiled in Brazil Land Purchase Probe” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-17/u-s-pension-fund-tiaa-embroiled-in-brazil-land-purchase-probe


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  December 7th, 2020 

Contact: 

  • Brian Obach (845) 943-9617 / brianobach@gmail.com
  • Scott Minkoff (301) 806-0267 / sminkoff@gmail.com
  • Caroline Levine 608-215-0485 / provokingdemocracy@gmail.com
  • Iris Marie Bloom (215) 840-6489 / protectingourwaters@gmail.com

SUNY New Paltz Faculty Senate Pushes TIAA to Halt Climate-Harming Investments

Passes Resolution urging TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and deforestation risk

Part of larger push to divest billions from climate destruction

NEW PALTZ, NY – On Wednesday, December 2nd, the SUNY New Paltz Faculty Senate passed an historic university faculty resolution pushing financial giant TIAA to divest from fossil fuels and from deforestation-risk investments. The faculty’s union chapter also passed a similar resolution on December 3rd. The measures are part of a growing effort to pressure pension funds and other financial institutions to end support for the fossil fuel industry. Two SUNY New Paltz faculty members, Brian Obach and Scott Minkoff, co-wrote the resolutions. 

“How can we be against climate change while at the same time be sponsoring the fossil fuel industry through our retirement funds?” asked Brian Obach, SUNY New Paltz Professor of Sociology. “The New Paltz faculty have spoken: we want TIAA to take our money out of the climate change industry.”   

The resolutions build on remarkable advances in fossil fuel divestment worldwide. Forty-seven more religious institutions just committed to full fossil fuel divestment, bringing the total number of religious institutions committed to divestment to about 400. The Bank of America also became the last major bank to withdraw funding for Arctic drilling, as concern about the climate emergency continues to grow.

Scott Minkoff, the SUNY New Paltz faculty member who introduced the resolution to the Faculty Senate, commented, “SUNY has more than 40,000 academic and professional faculty across 29 campuses. Many of those people are invested with TIAA, and we hope that campus leaders across the state will join us in advocating for divestment from fossil fuel holdings and agribusiness companies associated with deforestation and human rights abuses. Collectively, we can really make a difference.” Minkoff is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

The New Paltz community first learned about TIAA’s fossil fuel investments, estimated at $8.5 billion, when members of New Paltz Climate Action Coalition got arrested last November during a nonviolent climate action organized by ResistCVE. They shut down construction, for one day, of the largest fracked gas electric power plant in the Northeast, the Cricket Valley Energy Center (CVEC) in Dutchess County, only to learn that TIAA is a major owner of CVEC.   

“Imagine our surprise when, despite the clean green image of TIAA, we found out they were directly responsible for building CVEC, the fracked gas power plant which is already harming residents’ health in a vulnerable, rural and largely low-income community, while putting one of the East Coast’s largest freshwater wetlands in harm’s way from toxic pollutants,” commented Iris Marie Bloom, Director of Protecting Our Waters and a co-organizer of TIAA Divest! “We took a deeper look and found that TIAA remains deeply committed to fossil fuel investments, and to landholdings in Brazil which are associated with deforestation, human rights violations and displacement of indigenous communities. So we initiated a “TIAA Divest from Climate Destruction!” campaign right away.” The campaign posts information and breaking news at tiaa-divest.org.

That campaign now extends to multiple campuses, including Bard, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, The New School, and UNC-Asheville, among others.  Caroline Levine, Ryan Professor of the Humanities at Cornell University, affirmed, “The SUNY New Paltz faculty is already inspiring other campuses to ask questions about TIAA’s continuing investments in fossil fuels and deforestation. We are planning to follow their lead at Cornell. Their resolution should wake us all up to TIAA’s investments in climate catastrophe.”

The SUNY New Paltz resolutions act as a nonviolent shot across the bow of TIAA, which is actively searching for a new CEO to replace Roger Ferguson when he steps down in March. The TIAA Divest! campaign “strongly encourages TIAA to pick a CEO who will guide them through the process of divestment from fossil fuel holdings and deforestation risk investments, which are unjust, harm climate, and reduce the likelihood of human survival.”  

“As we watch this disaster unfold,” Brian Obach concluded, “we may find ourselves asking the same question asked by those who have borne witness to injustice and disaster throughout history, ‘could I have done more to stop this?’ There is good reason to do more; there is no basis for doing less.” 

NOTES:

Brian Obach and Scott Minkoff are speaking as individuals with titles included for identification purposes only.  Their views are not intended to represent those of SUNY New Paltz or the larger SUNY system.

The SUNY New Paltz Faculty Senate is the representative governance body of the SUNY New Paltz academic and professional faculty. It passed the resolution on December 2nd, 2020.  The SUNY New Paltz chapter of the Union of University Professionals (UUP), an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) affiliate, passed their resolution on December 3rd, 2020.

●        “‘Huge News’: Nearly Four Dozen Faith Institutions Announce Divestment from Fossil Fuels” 11/16/2020 Common Dreamshttps://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/11/16/huge-news-nearly-four-dozen-faith-institutions-announce-divestment-fossil-fuels

●        “Bank of America Latest to Say No To Arctic Drilling” 11/30/2020 Barrons https://www.barrons.com/news/bank-of-america-latest-to-say-no-to-financing-arctic-drilling-01606783806

●        Rainforest Action Network slams TIAA’s nonexistent fossil fuel investment policy https://insurance-scorecard.com/view/?Value=tiaa&password


December 1st, 2020 – Roger Ferguson to step down as TIAA CEO, may join Biden administration.
On November 17th, TIAA’s President and CEO Roger Ferguson announced him upcoming retirement, effective March 31st, 2021. 
As the individual at the top the TIAA-Nuveen management  pyramid, we at TIAA-DIVEST! have been focusing our messaging directly at Roger Ferguson. We have no doubt that whoever is sitting in the CEO seat at TIAA has the power to change TIAA’s investment strategy towards climate and social justice. Ferguson is on his way out, possibly to lead the Biden administration’s National Economic Council, so we will need to recalibrate. 


Now that TIAA-Divest’s organizers have had the opportunity to digest the news and to strategize, we realize that this change is a tremendous opportunity. There will be a new captain at TIAA’s helm, and we want TIAA to hire a leader who understands that TIAA’s tremendous economic power needs to be handled responsibly. 
TIAA’s beneficiaries (That’s YOU if you have a TIAA retirement account) need to demand that TIAA hires a new CEO who can pull them out of their current fossil fueled, deforestation powered, 19th century mindset and who understands that TIAA can’t meet it’s client’s needs unless it:

  • Immediately stops new investments in fossil fuel production, processing and infrastructure.
  • Publishes a detailed investment policy describing how TIAA will extract itself from deforestation risk lands, land grabbing and industrial scale agribusiness that forces independent farmers off their land and steals the homes of indigenous peoples.
  • Immediately stops fighting New York’s clean energy policies. And immediately sells its Cricket Valley Energy Center fracked gas power plant. (TIAA claims they can’t find a buyer, but TIAA-DIVEST maintains an open offer to buy the plant in order to shut it down!)

 This is the chance for you to do something! Please take 5 minutes to let TIAA know that their next CEO needs to be a true visionary who’ll take TIAA’s billions of dollars out of the extraction economy and use it to power a new clean, just and responsible retirement system that won’t bleed their clients savings into oil industry’s losing holes in the ground.