As Europe's largest conservation charity, we're committed to helping the UK achieve net zero emissions. That's why we have announced today that we're stopping investment in fossil fuel companies. Hilary McGrady, National Trust Director-General, tell us more about this decision.
We are all aware that our natural environment is under greater pressure than ever before. Climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the places we care for, and it has risen up the public agenda in recent months.
We are a conservation organisation and so are rightly held to account about the environmental impact of everything we do, from plastic overshoes all the way up to the environmental impact of the companies we invest in. We know this is a complex issue and we are learning, along with the rest of the world, about the many things we can do to minimise our impact and how we can apply them across our operations.
None of us liked reading the headlines a few months ago that reported the Trust was investing in fossil fuels. Our current investment policy requires that no investment is made directly in companies which derive more than 10 per cent of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or oil. Many of you still found this hard to reconcile – our investments are absolutely vital to the conservation work we do, but they have to be aligned to our mission to protect special places forever.
Over the years we have gradually changed our investment strategy and as a result our current portfolio has a carbon footprint a third lower than the benchmark for similar portfolios. Indirect investment in fossil fuels now accounts for just 4 per cent.
But we hear your feedback loud and clear, and we too believe this is 4 per cent too much. So we are announcing today that we will stop investing in fossil fuel companies within three years.
This announcement applies to all the funds in the Trust’s investment portfolio – the money our supporters like you donate to fund our conservation work. Our pension fund, as with many organisations, is managed independently by trustees appointed specifically for that purpose. Our own Trustees and Executives rightly have no say over how pension funds are invested. We’ve advised the pension trustees of our decision and they will consider the right approach for them to meet their commitment to prioritise the interests of pension fund members.
" We know that all of you are keen to see us do everything we can to protect and nurture our environment for future generations. This is just one small part of our work to do this."
We know many of you will ask why it will take three years to stop all fossil fuel investments. We expect that the majority of divestments can be achieved within 12 months, but we wanted to be honest with you that this process is complicated and the final elements are likely to take slightly longer.
We know that all of you are keen to see us do everything we can to protect and nurture our environment for future generations. This is just one small part of our work to do this. We are proud that we have also reduced our own energy use by 7 per cent and continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – oil use is down 67 per cent and all our electricity is purchased from renewable sources (unless it’s generated by our solar and hydro installations).
This doesn’t mean we are complacent about the challenges ahead. If we are going to achieve net zero by 2045, we’ll all need to play our part – from investments to plastic and energy to waste. So, let’s keep this conversation going, and keep thinking about what more we can do.
We are proud to be working alongside you all to play our part in protecting nature and the environment.