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Pension funds talk green but hold billions in polluter stocks

The 10 largest U.S. public pension funds still have a lot of money invested in the biggest corporate polluters.

Analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence put the figure at about $40 billion, meaning 9% of the funds’ combined equity holdings are devoted to 20 high-carbon emitting companies. The numbers may be lower since California and New York funds pared their stakes in companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Walmart Inc. and Southern Co. since the start of the year. 

Nevertheless, the fact that giant retirement plans are devoting so much money to a part of the market most responsible for accelerating the climate crisis might be surprising to those who believe recent messaging from those funds.

Among the most outspoken has been the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the country’s third-largest public pension fund with assets of about $255 billion. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli pledged in December to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the fund’s investments by 2040, a decade before most other U.S. pension plans.

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