Aspen to clean and green investment portfolio
Resolution 29: City’s investment of public funds won’t “indirectly support the harmful effects some institutions may have on the environment”
Aspen officeholders this week adopted changes to the city’s financial policy to restrict the investment of public dollars solely into corporate concerns that satisfy criteria on an environmental scorecard.
City Council’s unanimous decision Tuesday night to pass the resolution was the latest effort by Aspen government to align its progressive environmental goals with its business decisions. At its Feb. 1 meeting, council members instructed Pete Strecker to finish work on an updated investment policy, which is what he did.
Along with Resolution No. 29, Strecker presented elected officials with 24 pages of the city’s updated financial and investment policies, which include segments about budgets, property taxes, emergency appropriations and so on.
The most notable addition, which Strecker highlighted to council, was the “Environmentally Conscious” bullet point, which states: “The City’s investment of public funds shall be such that they are consistent with City values, including environmental stewardship. As such, the City will adopt the environmental scoring metric from E.S.G. (Environmental, Social and Governance) scores provided by the City’s financial adviser, to help guide decision making in this area. For new investment opportunities, the City shall not invest in corporate offerings that have an environmental score below the midpoint of the scoring scale.”
The council’s adoption of the resolution shows Aspen is “taking great steps forward,” Mayor Torre said. “I feel very comfortable with what we are doing now and with what we have talked about with management and staff and council, that these are the first steps.”
Also at its Feb. 1 meeting, the council agreed to divest $3.1 million from the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway when the bonds mature in August.
The city is jilting Berkshire over what its investment adviser said is the company’s bad environmental score rating.
The city has $131 million in investments. Other companies potentially eligible for chopping block include Wells Fargo; the city has $2.9 million invested in the banking giant and fossil-fuel investor, putting it in the not-so-good graces of environmental activist groups.
Locally, that includes 350 Roaring Fork, whose coordinator Will Hodges urged council members at Tuesday’s meeting to adopt “an explicit policy of divesting from fossil fuel companies.”
Council members said they will need to dig more into the backgrounds of companies before divesting from them. The to-be-determined scorecard criteria, Strecker said, will inform those decisions.
Companies also are feeling political pressures to change.
Wells Fargo, for example, this week announced its intentions to have net-zero financed emissions by 2050 and align its investment practices with goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, which the United States rejoined in January after Joe Biden became president. Less clear is how that will factor into the city’s decision about its investment with the San Francisco bank.
Aspen’s Resolution No. 29 approved this week notes, “City Council has requested a linkage between the investment of public funds and the environmental stewardship of the entities that the City includes within its investment portfolio, and allow for a metric to be established and applied so as to not indirectly support the harmful effects some institutions may have on the environment.”
Resident Jim Stone told council members during the virtual meeting that Aspen carries clout with its policy-making.
“Aspen is so influential that an explicit policy to shun fossil fuels is a darn good first step,” Stone said.
Finding a restaurant operator to go into the former Taster’s Pizza space across from Rio Grande Park wasn’t a priority for Aspen’s elected officials earlier this year but now it is.
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