On May 12th, 2020 TIAA-Divest! delivered our demand letter to TIAA board members and executives. Signed by 75 allied groups, the letter was powerful enough to grab the attention of TIAA’s Responsible Investing team.
On June 10th we engaged in a one hour teleconference with members of the RI team and we clearly explained our constituents’ expectations. Our notes from the meeting are available here. We were promised meaningful follow-up and clarifying information. It was not forthcoming.
TIAA’s disappointing response demonstrated that they don’t recognize divestment as a valid strategy and they don’t understand the climate crisis. TIAA can’t reconcile their actions with their perceived self-image but they refuse to alter their behavior. Read our response to TIAA’s content-free termination of our conversation.
Maureen O’Hara, Chair The Corporate Governance and Social Responsibility Committee of the Board of Trustees TIAA 730 Third Avenue New York, NY 10017
May 12, 2020
Dear Ms. O’Hara:
We hope that you, your family, and all TIAA Board members and their families are well and safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We, the below-signed organizations, have launched TIAA Divest!, a campaign to protect climate and public health. We invite you to help shift TIAA away from investments that harm public health, accelerate climate change, and deepen inequality.
We are asking TIAA for four actions in order to protect climate, public health, and human rights. We urge TIAA to address one urgent issue overnight: divest from a dirty fracked-gas power plant called Cricket Valley Energy (CVE), in Dover, NY. Even now, CVE is putting workers and area residents at increased risk for Covid-19 by calling workers in from out of state (FL, TX, NJ, etc.) to finish this unnecessary, harmful plant. Next, we ask TIAA to immediately stop investing in any new fossil-fuel power plants, including the functioning Carrollton, Ohio fracked-gas power plant; quickly implement a no-deforestation investment policy; and divest from all fossil-fuel investments.
We would love to meet with you, online, to discuss how TIAA can shift towards a truly sustainable, responsible investment policy appropriate for the millions of educators, cultural workers, and other public/nonprofit sector investors whom TIAA serves. We urge TIAA to:
1. Divest from CVE: Shockingly, TIAA is the largest single owner of CVE, a new, heavily polluting, fracked-gas power plant which TIAA has built against the wishes of the low-income rural community where it is located. Residents have fought CVE permitting and construction for ten long years. As a 35 percent investor in CVE’s giant 1,100 MW power plant, TIAA will be significantly responsible for over 6 million tons of greenhouse gases the plant would emit annually, including 3.5M tons of CO2, 279 tons of ozone-forming nitrous oxide, 191 tons of particulate matter, and 118 tons of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). This heavy load of toxic air pollution puts local schoolchildren, the elderly, and all those with respiratory ailments particularly at risk. CVE, if not shut down, would run on methane (“natural gas,” now called “fracked gas” due to the health-harming extraction method used). CVE was permitted before the massive fugitive methane emissions from fracking operations, pipelines, and compressor stations were understood. Methane is 86 times worse than CO2 in terms of global heating.
2. Stop investing in new fossil fuel power plants: TIAA also owns a large stake in a fracked-gas power plant in Carrollton OH. TIAA must divest its ownership of this plant, too, and must immediately create a new policy to avoid investing in construction of any fossil-fuel power plants. They are bad for health and climate, and a bad investment as well. As wind, solar, wave, tidal, hydro, micro-hydro, and new battery-storage capacities combine with efficiency and conservation measures to make a green jobs economy possible, TIAA can and must be on the positive side of history.
3. Implement a no-deforestation investment policy: Largely unknown to its clients, TIAA has hundreds of millions invested in deforestation-producing agribusiness companies including those that produce palm oil, paper/pulp, rubber, timber, beef and soy, and billions more in consumer goods companies that use these commodities. We urge TIAA to develop a risk- management policy to address deforestation and related human rights and public-health impacts, which would require investee companies to adhere to best practices in eliminating these from their operations and supply chains.
TIAA has also been buying farmland in places where land-grabbing and fraud are widespread, both in the US and in countries such as Brazil. These land deals drive out small farmers and indigenous communities, increase inequality, and degrade the environment of some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, including the Brazilian Cerrado. TIAA’s farmland and agribusiness investments not only contribute to the violation of human rights, they are also causing deforestation and harmful industrial agriculture practices, both major drivers of the climate crisis.
4. TIAA must divest from all fossil-fuel investments and activities. TIAA has $10 billion dollars invested in fossil-fuel companies. Divestiture of these investments must include any and all parts of the fossil-fuel supply chain from exploration and extraction through transportation, refining, distribution, wholesaling, and retailing.
In January 2020, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s annual letter to investors asserted that the entire financial system must fundamentally transform due to the climate crisis, showing that times have changed. Aa report produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis revealed that BlackRock’s fossil fuel portfolios had hurt investors by over US$90 billion in value destruction and opportunity cost over the past decade. Even prior to the Covid-19 crisis, ExxonMobil’s market value had fallen $184 billion since 2014. TIAA would do well to learn from peers in making a rapid shift away from poorly performing fossil-fuel stocks.
In closing, we would like to meet with you (virtually) at your earliest convenience so that we can learn whether TIAA will quickly divest from CVE, stop supporting the expansion of fossil-fuel power plants, implement a no-deforestation investment policy, and divest from all fossil fuels.
Two-thirds of Americans already support cutting carbon emissions. This proportion will continue to increase. The United Nations has called 2020 our last best chance to curb greenhouse gas emissions while we still can, after decades of destructive procrastination. Please be a champion for climate, for communities, for equality, and for public health.
Meanwhile, given the Covid-19 crisis we’re living through, we call on TIAA to act generously in providing economic relief to those in need, including debt relief, suspension of executive pay increases and bonuses, and providing direct economic assistance where possible.
Earth Ethics, Inc. ♦ Food & Water Watch ♦ Friends of the Earth ♦ Mothers Out Front New Paltz Climate Action Coalition North American Climate Conservation and Environment ♦ Protecting Our Waters Rainforest Action Network ♦ ResistCVE ♦ Sane Energy Project ♦ StopCricketValley.org ♦ TIAA Divest! ♦ 350.org ♦ AAUW Kingston ♦ Advocates for Springfield NY ♦ Connecticut Citizens Action Group ♦ Climate Reality Project ♦ Hudson Valley and Catskills Chapter Coalition to Protect New York ♦ Community Advocates for a Sustainable Environment ♦ Compressor Free Franklin ♦ Concerned Health Professionals of New York ♦ Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition ♦ Dryden Resource Awareness ♦ Earthkeeper Health Resources ♦ Elmirans and Friends Against Fracking ♦ Extinction Rebellion Mid-Hudson/New Paltz ♦ Gas Free Seneca Green Education and Legal Fund ♦ Healing and Protecting Our Land Together: A Call to Prayer ♦ Mothers Out Front-Dutchess County ♦ New Paltz Interfaith Earth Action ♦ New York Youth Climate Leaders ♦ NYCD16 Indivisible ♦ Oblong Valley Indivisible ♦ People for a Healthy Environment ♦ People’s Climate Movement-NY ♦ Physicians for Social Responsibility-New York ♦ Rockland Citizens Action Network ♦ Safe Energy Rights Group ♦ Seneca Lake Guardian ♦ Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion ♦ Stop NY Fracked Gas Pipeline ♦ The Banner ♦ 350 Brooklyn ♦ 350 Butte County ♦ 350 NJ-Rockland ♦ 350 NYC ♦ 350 Seattle 350 Silicon Valley ♦ Westchester for Change ♦ WESPAC
cc: Roger W. Ferguson, Jr.
via email: TIAA board members
TIAA Divest!, P.O. Box 45, Millerton, NY 12546 contact@TIAA-Divest.org