The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a private charitable foundation established in 1940, has been working to better align its endowed assets with its mission since 2010, when the board of trustees approved a commitment of up to 10 percent of the endowment to investments consistent with the foundation’s Sustainable Development program goals.
The Fund's initial priorities for investments from this 10 percent pool are focused on support for clean energy technologies and other business strategies that advance energy efficiency, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the effects of climate change. We also seek investment opportunities that align with the Fund’s other program goals in the fields of democratic practice and peacebuilding, and in the Fund’s “pivotal places”—specific geographic areas the Fund considers to be of exceptional regional or global significance. In the coming years, we expect the percentage of mission-aligned investments, including those targeted to clean energy development, will grow as we actively seek solid investments that will advance both our program and long-term financial goals.
Given the RBF’s deep commitment to combating climate change, the Fund is now committing to a two-step process to address its desire to divest from investments in fossil fuels. Our immediate focus will be on coal and tar sands, two of the most intensive sources of carbon emissions. We are working to eliminate the Fund’s exposure to these energy sources as quickly as possible. Given the structure of some commingled investment funds and investments in highly diversified energy companies, we recognize there may continue to be minimal investments in our portfolio in those energy sectors, but we are committed to reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. As we take the steps to divest from coal and tar sands investments, we are also undertaking a comprehensive analysis of our exposure to any remaining fossil fuel investments and will work with the RBF Investment Committee and board of trustees to determine an appropriate strategy for further divestment over the next few years.
In working to align our endowment investments with our mission and programs, we will adhere to the longstanding mandate of our board of trustees that our assets be invested with the goal of achieving financial returns that will enable the foundation to meet its annual philanthropic obligations, while maintaining the purchasing power of the endowment, so that future generations will also benefit from the foundation’s charitable giving. In uncertain and volatile markets, these financial goals are not easy to achieve. Therefore, our divestment from fossil fuels, which is now underway, will be accomplished through a careful process of evaluating our exposure and a phased approach that proceeds as quickly as is prudent.
We hope that the framework the RBF has adopted to guide our divestment and investment strategies will be of interest to other foundations and institutional investors as we also expect to learn from the experience of others.