National Trust announces it will divest from all fossil fuel companies

The National Trust has announced it will cease any investment in fossil fuel companies.

The charity will introduce a series of new measures to ensure its investment strategy continues to support its aims as a conservation charity. 

Previously the Trust had required that no investment be made directly in companies which derived more than 10 per cent of their turnover from the extraction of thermal coal or oil from oil sands.  Fossil fuel investments comprise just 4 per cent of its current portfolio.

Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust said: “Returns from our investments are vital for helping us protect and care for special places across the nation.  They enable us to look after the natural environment and keep our membership fees affordable to the millions of people who are part of our organisation.

“The impacts of climate change pose the biggest long-term threat to the land and properties we care for and tackling this is a huge challenge for the whole nation. 

“We know our members and supporters are eager to see us do everything we can to protect and nurture the natural environment for future generations.  This change is part of our ongoing commitment.”

The new measures include:

  • Divesting from all fossil fuel companies within the next three years. 
  • Establishing a long-term goal to continue the reduction of the carbon footprint of the investment portfolio.
  • Increasing engagement with companies invested in, to encourage them to make material improvements in their environmental performance.
  • Actively seeking out opportunities to support green start-up businesses

Peter Vermeulen, the charity’s Chief Financial Officer said: “The Trust has just over a billion pounds invested on the stock market, the returns from which are an important source of income.  Over the years we’ve gradually evolved our investment strategy to reduce our carbon footprint. 

“Many organisations have been working hard to persuade fossil fuel companies to invest in green alternatives. These companies have made insufficient progress and now we have decided to divest from fossil fuel companies.

“We have set a three-year timescale but expect the majority of divestments will be accomplished in the first 12 months.

“We would not expect this divestment to have a negative effect on financial returns and we know that our members and supporters are eager for us to play our part in tackling climate change through everything we do.

“Now we will seek to invest in green start-up businesses and other suitable portfolios that deliver benefits for the environment, nature and people.”

The Trust is Europe’s largest conservation charity and looks after 780 miles of coastline, 248,000 hectares of land and over 500 historic houses, castles, monuments, gardens, parks and nature reserves. 43 per cent of all rainwater in England, Wales and Northern Ireland drains through National Trust places.

Mr Vermeulen concluded: “We want to protect the environment by becoming more energy efficient.  In the last four years we’ve created our own green heat and power through the design and build of heat pumps, hydro schemes, solar PV and wood fuel boilers.

“We’re also exploring farming and land management methods that reduce flooding, help clean water supplies and restore wildlife, while at the same time offering innovative ways to deliver new revenues into farm businesses.

“We also have a plan to phase out single use plastics from our shops and to substantially reduce it in our cafes by 2022. These are part of our commitment to a healthy and thriving natural environment.”

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