Investing ethically

Mark Burton, Carolyn Kagan, Francis Vergunst - long-term advocates of divestment in terms of the Society's investment policy - welcome recent news.

We were very pleased to see the British Psychological Society’s new Investment Policy which makes a strong ethical stand on the kinds of companies in which the Society should be investing its capital. In particular, we would like to draw attention to the exclusion of companies the primary part of whose business is engagement in fossil fuel extraction, as this was something we proposed in these pages back in 2015.

The BPS joins a growing number of professional organisations and charities that have committed to ending their investment in fossil fuels, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the American Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and the Canadian Medical Association. It demonstrates professional leadership and a clear understanding that the extraction of fossil fuels damages not only the environment but also the health and wellbeing of us all. By making this commitment, the BPS Trustees are adding our voice to those saying that this industry no longer has the social licence to continue quickly extracting and burning the maximum quantity of hydrocarbons, thereby undermining any chance of keeping global temperatures within the minimally safe limit of 2°C of warming. Moreover, fossil fuel extraction (including more recent methods such as fracking) is increasingly damaging the health and wellbeing of populations living near its extraction sites and contributing to the public health crisis of air pollution, while often leading to serious human rights abuses.

The Trustees’ decision is also a sound move financially. Recent studies have shown there is nothing to gain from continuing to invest in what were once sound investments. Now we know that there is a need to leave at least four fifths of known fossil fuels unburnt, there is an increased risk of these investments ceasing to give a return (the assets being stranded).

While we welcome the Society’s bold statement, we do ask that the Trustees, with their investment advisers, now publish the list of their present holdings, together with a timetable for moving these investments into holdings that are not implicated in climate and ecosystem destruction.

Meanwhile members might like to check if their universities, pension funds, banks, employers and other affiliations have made the step of committing to fossil fuel divestment.

Mark Burton
Carolyn Kagan
Francis Vergunst

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