This Grandparents’ Day, Elders Are Protesting Vanguard For Their Children and Grandchildren’s Futures

Vanguard and the company’s leadership are allowing fossil fuel companies to destroy our world and set up future generations for climate catastrophe.

As a child, my parents impressed upon me the importance of returning anything that I borrowed in the same or even better condition than when I received it. This instilled in me a sense of responsibility to others that has served me well in my relationships.  

Today, I see how we are not caring for our environment, but passing down a wildly disrupted climate to those who come after us. It is impossible to avoid the growing incidents of climate disruption  – raging forest fires, unprecedented storms, heat waves, and the accompanying issues of human migrations, environmental degradation, and the loss of species – to name just a few. How has it happened that our beautiful and bountiful Earth has become so dysregulated?

Unfortunately, I have been learning that the world’s largest asset managers are investing my retirement savings into fossil fuel development and continued deforestation, which are the primary causes of this climate disruption – harming the future for those that I love.

Vanguard is one of those very asset managers. Located in the Philadelphia area, Vanguard is the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels, with approximately $270 billion in coal, oil, and gas investments. Despite having major influence over the fossil fuel companies in which it invests, Vanguard refuses to take meaningful climate action. It lags far behind even its peers like BlackRock and State Street. Last month, Vanguard disclosed that it supported only 2 percent of environmental and social shareholder resolutions in the first half of this year, whereas BlackRock voted for 12 percent of those resolutions.  

Vanguard and the company’s leadership are allowing fossil fuel companies to destroy our world and set up future generations for climate catastrophe. This is a reckless course of action – and I feel complicit as it is being done with our money!  

My savings are meant to secure my retirement, but not at the expense of my children’s future. To take a stand against climate destruction, I have joined the Never Vanguard campaign, and on Sept. 19 I will be joining many elders and others who are celebrating Grandparents’ Day by standing up for the future for those that we love. Vanguard continues to avoid taking meaningful climate action, so we are acting ourselves – for our grandchildren and other young people in our lives.

READ: How Protests That Double As Trainings Are Growing This Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

As an investor I know that I have relatively little individual power, but by coming together and acting with others, we can get Vanguard’s attention and demand that it provide climate-safe investments.  

On Sept. 19, we’re demanding that Vanguard:

First, use its power as a shareholder to push the companies that it invests in to make meaningful progress on reducing emission; Second, exit its investments in fossil fuel companies that are not transitioning their businesses to align with a livable future; And third, offer climate-safe funds as mainstream investment options that are promoted by its financial advisors. 

Additionally as an elder, I need my investments to be secure, but Vanguard’s fossil fuel investments are becoming increasingly risky due to extreme weather events. Research shows that Vanguard stands to lose $3 trillion by 2050 if it fails to act on climate concerns. Despite acknowledging that climate change is a material risk to investors, Vanguard has still failed to take meaningful climate action, and has even backtracked on climate by quitting its most significant climate commitment, the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative.

I believe that elders have a responsibility to act wisely and to speak up for the unborn children of the future, following the advice of our Native American neighbors who counseled that we must consider the next seven generations in all our actions. This “Seventh Generation Principle” was a core value of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) who taught that we must respect and care for this world as we are “borrowing it” from future generations. This is exactly what my parents taught me.

Can we become “good ancestors” and ask ourselves, “What is the impact of our actions on those who come after us?”

Yes, we can!  

Join me at the Grandparents’ Day Action on Tuesday, Sept. 19 in Malvern, along with Elders Action Network, Earth Quaker Action Team, and The Shalom Center and pledge “Never Vanguard” to take a stand against climate destruction.  Some folks are pledging to move their savings out of Vanguard while others are promising to not invest in or work for Vanguard until it deals with its climate problem and invests for a livable future. Come learn more, take the Never Vanguard Pledge, and stand for a thriving and just future for all.

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Lynne Iser

Lynne Iser is President of Elders Action Network, and directs their Fix My Funds campaign as they works to build a movement of elders addressing the critical issues of our time. She is an “elder-activist,” a member of the Rocking Chair Rebels and an active participant in EQAT’s Vanguard-SOS campaign to end the financing of fossil fuels.

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