That green study you shared may have been funded by fossil fuels

The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s wealthiest private
philanthropies, has funded multiple studies in the field of
environmental science. With $29.3 billion in assets, you’d think
the United Kingdom-based organization could even afford to take
fossil fuel companies to task for contributing to climate
change…right? Wrong.

Though the Wellcome Trust touts
as a philanthropy that supports research to investigate
“what makes cities healthy and environmentally sustainable,”
its offshore investments tell a different story. According to an
investigation published today in Science,
a significant chunk of the Wellcome Trust’s $1.2 billion handouts
in recent years has come from “companies that contribute to the
same problems the philanthropy wants to solve.”

For example, the Trust funded a study on the sobering reality
of air pollution in Hong Kong that found elderly residents exposed
to smog and especially soot were more likely to die of cancer than
people who breathed cleaner air. Science found that some of the
money that the philanthropy used to fund the air pollution research
was tied to Varo Energy, a company that sells bunker fuel (an oil
refining residue that is a major source of soot pollution) to
shipping firms. These particulates billow from ship stacks and can
have deadly outcomes, such as those found by the Wellcome
Trust-funded study. Researchers estimate soot pollution contributes
to the premature deaths of 250,000 people annually.

This funding revelation comes from a trove of documents called
“The Paradise Papers,” which were leaked to Science by a law
firm that managed some of the deals. Large foundations and other
nonprofits commonly use offshore companies and undisclosed
investments to maximize returns, and yet the nature of these
accounts controversially obscure exactly how organizations’
tax-exempt dollars are flowing.

“Many of the best-performing funds have offshore domiciles,”
Wellcome Trust wrote in a statement to Science. “Our successful
long-term investment strategy is based on exposure to a globally
diversified range of asset classes.”

It goes to show that even do-good organizations are not immune
from the Machiavellian principles of investing. Like other
businesses, they need the highest return possible when looking for
money to invest in the myriad of social and environmental issues
facing the world today. And although it could be argued that,
unlike unscrupulous gazillionaires, foundations will likely use
their offshore dollars to do some greater good, critics say that
by lending their pristine reputations to offshore strategies, these
organizations are “helping to legitimize tactics that others
widely use to bend or break the law.”

The thinking that “if you invest for social good you’re
going to lose return is no longer valid,” Dana Lanza, who heads
the nonprofit Confluence
, which encourages foundations to align
philanthropic mission with investment choices, told Grist. But
there are other options. Even though fund managers (not
foundations) choose investments, some organizations opt to bar
certain types of investments that could pose conflicts of interest.
According to Lanza, research shows that when companies invest with
a climate risk lens, they tend to outperform over time compared to
a non-green strategy.

“Given the urgency and the severity of the climate crisis,
it’s really important that foundations pay attention,” Lanza
told Grist. “They have a moral imperative to align their
investment strategy around climate risk and sustainability
outcomes, given where we’re at right now.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
That green study you shared may have been funded by fossil
on Dec 6, 2018.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
That green study you shared may have been funded by fossil fuels