Quakers Pray as Protest at Pennsylvania Headquarters of Vanguard, World’s Largest Investor in Fossil Fuels

Quakers from Across the United States and Abroad Join Simultaneous Online Worship Service, Illustrating the Global Impact of Vanguard’s Investments

Malvern, PA – Today, Philadelphia-area Quakers held a worship service at the entrance to Vanguard’s global headquarters, with over 30 people of diverse faiths in attendance. They sat in silence as Vanguard employees and other drivers whizzed by, with participants occasionally standing to share a message when moved to do so. Around them were banners with messages like “Vanguard, Don’t Rob Our Future.”

At the same time, Quakers from across the United States and all the way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo participated in a virtual worship service hosted by Quaker Earthcare Witness, with the Pennsylvania action live streamed in. Event organizers claim that, as the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels, Vanguard has the means to influence the companies in its portfolio to shift away from climate destruction and towards a just transition to decarbonization. 

Screenshot of a Zoom video meeting. The largest video is of a group of people seated outside in poses of reflection and with a large red and white protest banner in front of them. Above that large video is a row of smaller videos showing individuals inside, seemingly in their homes, also in poses of reflection.

“We live in a moment in which the integrity of the Web of Life hangs in the balance of human choice. As one of the world’s largest investors in fossil fuels, with $7.7 trillion under management, Vanguard has the power to shape the future of countless species – including our own,” said Keith Runyan, General Secretary of Quaker Earthcare Witness. “We ask that Vanguard come under the weight of this profound responsibility, in our times, and align itself with Life.”

Stewardship is a core value to many Quakers and also one of Vanguard’s stated values, but protestors assert that Vanguard is currently failing to responsibly steward its customers’ savings for a livable future. Vanguard invests about $270 billion dollars in coal, oil, and gas. Company leadership has so far refused to take meaningful action on climate change, lagging behind in the asset management industry by not engaging sufficiently with portfolio companies and by failing to release plans to decarbonize its investment portfolio in line with an internationally-agreed upon limit to global temperature increase.

Recently, the national advocacy organization, Majority Action, released its annual “Climate in the Boardroom” report, which found that Vanguard ranked at the bottom of the asset management industry, along with Fidelity, for its consistent lack of holding accountable the boards of the major polluters in its portfolio. 

The prayer action is part of the ongoing global Vanguard S.O.S. campaign. Through protests, phone calls, letters, petitions, and other actions over the past two years, campaigners have been asking Vanguard to use its influence as a major shareholder to push the companies it invests in to significantly reduce their emissions, and exit its investments in fossil fuel companies that refuse to transition their businesses to be in alignment with a livable future.

“By taking worship from our Quaker meeting houses to Vanguard’s doorstep, we’re honoring what has already been lost to environmental destruction and committing to return to Vanguard until it takes significant, meaningful action on climate change,” said Lina Blount, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Earth Quaker Action Team.

Photos from both events can be found here.  

Eve Gutman, Earth Quaker Action Team, eve@eqat.org
Keith Runyan, Quaker Earthcare Witness, keith@quakerearthcare.org