Guns, oil and tobacco unlikely in Pitkin County’s future portfolio
In a bid to promote social responsibility, Pitkin County’s future investments will not support companies that make most of their money from tobacco, guns or fossil fuels.
All five Pitkin County commissioners praised the policy move Tuesday, which will come up for a vote and public hearing later this year.
“I think Pitkin County should totally divest from those agencies (like oil companies),” said Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury. It’s “a small but powerful statement, and that’s what I’d like us to do.”
In reality, Pitkin County’s entire investment portfolio is made up of U.S. government-backed securities, said Julie Hughes, a financial advisor with Chandler Asset Management. That means the county is already practicing what it’s just beginning to preach, and that it currently has no interests in tobacco, firearms or fossil fuel companies, said Ann Driggers, Pitkin County treasurer.
However, the new investing policy — known by acronyms that stand for “Environmental, Social Governance” investing and “Socially Responsible Investing” — will serve as a guide for future investments, Driggers said. Hughes told commissioners she will likely be bringing corporate investment options to them in the near future, though state law says they can only be from double-A-rated companies, and they most certainly won’t be fossil fuel-related.
“They will not be Exxon or Chevron,” Hughes said.
If approved, Pitkin County’s investment policy would be amended to include new language outlining the goals.
“In the event all general objectives mandated by state law are met and created equal, investments in corporate securities and depository institutions will be evaluated for social and environmental concerns,” according to a preliminary draft provided to commissioners Tuesday by Hughes and fellow financial advisor Scott Prickett.
“Investments are encouraged in entities that support equality of rights regardless of sex, race, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation, as well as those entities that practice environmentally sound and fair labor practices. Investments are prohibited in entities that receive a significant portion of their revenues from the manufacture of tobacco products, exploration of fossil fuels, firearms or weapons not used in our national defense.”
Commissioners had questions about oil companies, which can be involved in clean energy on one hand but also extraction of fossil fuels on the other. Or businesses with large interests that might distantly include unsafe cobalt mining practices in Central Africa. They also asked how owning U.S.-government backed securities also didn’t support weapons trafficking through official U.S. arms deals.
Hughes said U.S. Treasury Bonds are the most secure investment around, and that arms deals are not the U.S. government’s primary business. The new investment guidance is based on that theory. In other words, until Exxon-Mobil is like Tesla, it won’t receive money from Pitkin County, she said.
The policy will come back to the board later this spring with minor tweaks in language suggested Tuesday by commissioners.
Pitkin County earned $1.8 million in investment income in 2020, according to a memo from Driggers to commissioners.
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