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Mission Responsibility Through Investment prepares for 223rd General Assembly

Several recommendations to be presented in St. Louis

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) is making final preparations for its recommendations to the 223rd General Assembly. MRTI is a three-agency committee that implements the General Assembly’s policies on faith-based investing.

This year, the committee will ask delegates to:

  • Affirm the need of urgent and robust responses to the threat of climate change.
  • Affirm Guideline Metrics developed by MRTI for measuring progress with the General Assembly’s established criteria for all corporations (especially those working in fossil fuels.)
  • Direct MRTI to pursue engagement with possible selective divestment recommendations for companies that will not move towards compliance.
  • Commend investing agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for providing options for congregations, mid-councils and individuals working toward a fossil fuel-free future.
  • Encourage respectful discussion and engagement in the church and civil society on climate change.

“The Guidelines Metrics provide a clear way to evaluate a company and its progress on environmental, social and governance issues,” said Rob Fohr, director of the Office of Faith-Based Investing. “The tool includes research and data from the company, dialogue analysis, as well as external sources and media reports to help paint a complete picture of companies across all sectors.”

MRTI has also engaged representatives of all sides of the divestment debate within PC(USA), said Fohr. During MRTI meetings, Fohr said representatives from Fossil Free PCUSA and Faithful Actions on Climate Change, are in attendance and invited to speak.

“All sides agree on the urgency of addressing climate change and the need for the church to respond faithfully,” said Fohr. “MRTI has also engaged partners through Compassion, Peace and Justice and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, serving and representing those directly affected by the impacts of climate change.”

Joseph Kinard, chair of MRTI, said it will be critically important to continue engagements and pushing fossil fuel suppliers.

“If investor voices like MRTI leave corporations alone, which is what some companies may want, we risk becoming awash in supply,” Kinard said. “The economics of transitioning away from a fossil fuel based economy become impossible with no one pressuring the companies to transition.”

Since 2016, MRTI has participated in more than 100 engagements, ranging from dialogues with companies, to submitting letters and filing proposals with dozens of companies. Fohr said 83 percent of the engagements specifically focused on issues relating to the environment and climate change.

“These engagements have led to a change in thinking for more and more U.S.-based companies. Eventually, we believe it will lead to change in the ways of doing business,” he said. “This has been especially true for European companies like Statoil, which has pivoted quite heavily to solar as an energy source. American companies are lagging, but real change requires continued pressure from investors and we are seeing momentum now.”

Fohr said votes on shareholder proposals related to climate risk are going up and believes continued engagement should remain the plan. “Climate change risk is going ‘mainstream’ as many of the largest asset managers are voting in favor of climate change resolutions. This was almost unthinkable just a few years ago.”

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MRTI brings together representatives from the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, investing agencies of the Board of Pensions and Presbyterian Foundation/New Covenant Trust Company, the advocacy committees on women’s concerns and racial equity, the social witness policy committee and three at-large members elected by the General Assembly. It is jointly funded by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions.


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