The CEO of the pension fund for 375,000 public sector workers in Alberta was “misrepresenting” his organization’s policies last month when he spoke out against fossil fuel divestment, a watchdog group says.
Last month, Evan Siddall, chief executive of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), said divesting from fossil fuels is the opposite of what pension funds should be doing if they want to help solve the climate crisis.
“We don’t believe in (divestment) at all, as a strategy,” Siddall told a September 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new AIMCo office in Calgary. “The energy sector is the sector that’s investing in this area (emissions reduction) the most, and that has the most to lose. So we think that deserves our support and that’s where we will invest. And we think that’s where the returns are, too.”
But that position “contradicts AIMCo’s own policies,” Patrick DeRochie, senior manager at Toronto-based Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, said in an email. He said the fund’s January, 2020 Investment Exclusions Guidelines “clearly explain when AIMCo will divest and covers formal exclusions on direct investments in tobacco, nuclear weapons, cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines, weapons systems integration services, or other weapons of mass destruction.”
AIMCo also committed in March to divest all its Russian holdings, DeRochie added.
The exclusions policy [pdf] says AIMCo “reserves the right to exclude the securities of certain companies from its investment portfolios, on a case by case basis, and as required to satisfy individual clients’ statements’ of investment policy and goals.” Of the six “exclusions and exit” criteria in the document, at least four could be seen as pointing to mounting concerns about the multiple risks of fossil fuel investment:
• Disregard for acceptable international business practices;
• Investors’ ability to drive “positive change”;
• Costs of continuing ownership that outweigh potential benefits;
• “Risk of reputational harm” to AIMCo or its clients.
“We are alarmed by the fundamental lack of climate literacy being demonstrated by the investment executives managing C$168 billion in assets for Albertans,” Shift Action said in a statement. “AIMCo has a fiduciary duty to ensure the retirement security of Albertans and invest in their best long-term interests, not to take exceptional risks to prop up the biggest carbon polluters in Canada.”
AIMCo did not respond to a request for comment on how Siddall’s remarks aligned with the exclusions policy.