At the beginning of 2020, the Royal College of Physicians became the latest of our members to announce their intention to divest from the fossil fuel industry. They become the sixth of our members to make this commitment, joining the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which have all now fully divested or are in the process of doing so.

On the pathway to net zero emissions, we hope more medical bodies in the UK and around the world will join them. So far, worldwide, over 1,000 (medical and non-medical) organisations with £7 trillion assets have committed to divesting from fossil fuels and instead investing in climate solutions. Despite this, if the global health care sector were a country it would still be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.

Drawing on resources from organisations such as Medact and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, we have put together this short briefing on how to take this essential step towards ending your organisation’s contribution to the climate emergency.

At the beginning of 2020, the Royal College of Physicians became the latest of our members to announce their intention to divest from the fossil fuel industry. They become the sixth of our members to make this commitment, joining the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which have all now fully divested or are in the process of doing so.

On the pathway to net zero emissions, we hope more medical bodies in the UK and around the world will join them. So far, worldwide, over 1,000 (medical and non-medical) organisations with £7 trillion assets have committed to divesting from fossil fuels and instead investing in climate solutions. Despite this, if the global health care sector were a country it would still be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.

Drawing on resources from organisations such as Medact and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, we have put together this short briefing on how to take this essential step towards ending your organisation’s contribution to the climate emergency.

1. Why does your organisation want to divest from fossil fuels?

Consider environmental, health and economic ‘co-benefits’. Fossil fuels is one of the riskiest sectors, and FTSE and MSCI ACWI fossil fuel-free indices have equalled or out-performed their unsustainable counterparts over the last several years. Risks include encouraging inaction on climate change, stranded assets, and reputational damage. There is also a moral angle for an organisation promoting health and health professionals to not profit from organisations that harms health.

Send a clear message – the public places a high level of trust in health professionals, publicly divesting challenges the acceptability of supporting harmful industries.

2. What does your portfolio look like at the moment?

Before deciding on your approach to fossil fuel divestment you need to understand your organisation’s current exposure to the industry. Guidance on the UN supported Montreal Pledge website can help to determine the carbon footprint of your portfolio.

3. When? Freeze fossil fuel investments now, and set a date for full divestment.

We can’t afford to delay action to mitigate climate change – start now with no new investments.

Then set a time period to fully divest all direct and indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry. Be transparent about your progress.

4. How to start the journey

There are many different approaches to divestment, and based on your current portfolio your organisation needs to consider its own inclusion and exclusion criteria, and milestones. 

As divestment becomes more widespread, investment service providers are increasingly providing more sustainable options, including the FTSE and MSCI ACWI fossil fuel-free indices mentioned above. Speak to your fund manager, and consider schemes such as the Transition Pathway Initiative – the approach chosen by the Royal College of Physicians.

Investor engagement can successfully change practice, but won’t be effective with companies whose business model relies on fossil fuel extraction. Only divestment will reduce such damaging activities.

5. Invest in Planetary and People’s Health:

Fossil fuel divestment is a perfect opportunity to redirect investment to industries which mitigate climate change and promote planetary health, such as the renewable energy sector.

1. Why does your organisation want to divest from fossil fuels?

Consider environmental, health and economic ‘co-benefits’. Fossil fuels is one of the riskiest sectors, and FTSE and MSCI ACWI fossil fuel-free indices have equalled or out-performed their unsustainable counterparts over the last several years. Risks include encouraging inaction on climate change, stranded assets, and reputational damage. There is also a moral angle for an organisation promoting health and health professionals to not profit from organisations that harms health.

Send a clear message – the public places a high level of trust in health professionals, publicly divesting challenges the acceptability of supporting harmful industries.

2. What does your portfolio look like at the moment?

Before deciding on your approach to fossil fuel divestment you need to understand your organisation’s current exposure to the industry. Guidance on the UN supported Montreal Pledge website can help to determine the carbon footprint of your portfolio.

3. When? Freeze fossil fuel investments now, and set a date for full divestment.

We can’t afford to delay action to mitigate climate change – start now with no new investments.

Then set a time period to fully divest all direct and indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry. Be transparent about your progress.

4. How to start the journey

There are many different approaches to divestment, and based on your current portfolio your organisation needs to consider its own inclusion and exclusion criteria, and milestones. 

As divestment becomes more widespread, investment service providers are increasingly providing more sustainable options, including the FTSE and MSCI ACWI fossil fuel-free indices mentioned above. Speak to your fund manager, and consider schemes such as the Transition Pathway Initiative – the approach chosen by the Royal College of Physicians.

Investor engagement can successfully change practice, but won’t be effective with companies whose business model relies on fossil fuel extraction. Only divestment will reduce such damaging activities.

5. Invest in Planetary and People’s Health:

Fossil fuel divestment is a perfect opportunity to redirect investment to industries which mitigate climate change and promote planetary health, such as the renewable energy sector.

References

References