CalSTRS wants feedback on investment — let them know!

Divestment for the teacher

Fossil Free California activists rallied at the CalSTRS board meeting in June 2016. The message was “Divestment for the teacher!”

UPDATE: CalSTRS has extended the deadline one week, to September 23.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is looking for feedback about their sustainability practices, and we have an excellent opportunity to let them know it’s time to divest. Their sustainability survey is here on the CalSTRS website. It’s open to everyone — not just CalSTRS members — until Friday, September 23. It’s quick, too. You can complete it in just 10 minutes.

The survey includes a question about “CalSTRS’ efforts in environmentally based investment risk strategy,” one factor of which is “addressing the risk that fossil fuel companies and ‘stranded assets’ represent.” This is the key question. We need to reiterate that these efforts should be redoubled, that it’s extremely important to the future of the pension fund that CalSTRS does its part to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The Paris Accords of 2015 and recent agreements by China, the US, and many other large countries to pursue non-carbon alternatives have ensured that there will be many stranded assets. The coal, oil, and gas reserves that fossil fuel companies expect to be able to extract and sell are now counted as a major portion of the companies’ value. Once it becomes clear that the reserves must stay in the ground, the valuation of those companies will plummet, and investors who hold onto their stocks will be severely hit. We don’t want CalSTRS to be one of those investors.

It is true that the fund has started moving in the right direction. CalSTRS has begun selling all coal stocks, and the board recently voted to invest $2.5 billion in low-carbon funds. These moves indicate that CalSTRS is aware of the dangers, both financial and environmental, of maintaining its holdings in fossil fuels.

The fact that the survey is being conducted is itself a hopeful sign, especially since it includes this crucial question about “the risk that fossil fuel companies … represent.” Micael Sicilia, Acting Director of External Affairs, recently wrote us to say that CalSTRS does want to know what we think. “The results,” he wrote, “help us shape the content for our third annual sustainability report, scheduled for release in the spring of 2017.”

And they are looking for feedback from everyone: employees, members, and “other CalSTRS stakeholders (business partner, employer, consultant, other).” So if your only connection is that you are a concerned California citizen, your opinion counts.

Please go to the survey and fill it out. Be sure to answer question #5 on environmental risk as “Extremely important.” Also leave a comment at the end of the survey, mentioning the importance of divestment and adding as much as you wish. As an example, here’s what I wrote: “As a spouse of a CalSTRS retiree and a Californian profoundly concerned about the climate, I urge you to divest from all fossil fuels.”

Help us take advantage of this opportunity to let CalSTRS know what we think!