Vanguard Customers Join With Chester Residents at Covanta Incinerator to Announce Collectively Leaving Vanguard, Investor in Polluting Industry

Campaigners Launch New Initiative Where Vanguard Customers Move Their Money Out of the Asset Manager and Others Pledge to Not Work or Invest with Vanguard  

Chester, PA – On June 10, about 80 residents on the frontlines of pollution and climate activists gathered in front of the Covanta trash incinerator and announced the launch of a new initiative, called “Never Vanguard,” calling on people to stop doing business with Vanguard. As part of Never Vanguard, customers are withdrawing their investments from the asset manager, even though some have been with Vanguard for decades. Others are pledging to not invest or work with Vanguard. 

Vanguard is an investor in Covanta’s parent company, EQT, and many other corporations polluting Chester, a majority-Black city where heavy-polluting industries built along the Delaware River cause high rates of asthma and cancer.

Every day this community suffers from the violence of this polluter, Covanta, and the violence of other polluters nearby. We have to give our children a chance. How can you excel when you can’t breathe?” said Zulene Mayfield of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, as foul-smelling plumes of smoke rose up from the incinerator behind the group. 

After singing and hearing from speakers, participants wrote messages to Vanguard’s CEO, Tim Buckley, on postcards that map out polluting companies in Chester that are Vanguard investments. These postcards will be delivered to Vanguard’s global headquarters in Malvern during another protest on Wednesday, June 14.

This protest was a collaboration between Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, which has long fought to protect the residents of Chester from toxic pollution, and Earth Quaker Action Team, which is part of the global Vanguard S.O.S. campaign. Members of Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Sierra Club, Sisters of St. Francis, Extinction Rebellion, Third Act, Fridays for Future, and Campus Coalition Concerning Chester also joined the demonstration. 

Vanguard S.O.S. is an international effort made up of civil society organizations, grassroots activists, and financial experts working together to demand that Vanguard chart a new course toward truly sustainable investing. Vanguard S.O.S. is calling on Vanguard to implement a series of solutions to reverse the detrimental impacts of its investments, including leveraging its shareholder power to influence the worst polluting companies, integrating climate justice into business decisions, and decarbonizing its investment portfolio. 

To get Vanguard to change, we’ve written letters, made phone calls, delivered petitions, and asked company leadership to meet with us to hear our concerns. We’ve even gotten arrested at Vanguard headquarters and prayed outside the CEO’s house. We can’t continue to put our trust or our savings in a company that is on this reckless course. It’s time to pledge Never Vanguard, together,” said Eileen Flanagan, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Earth Quaker Action Team.

Last year, local groups organized seventeen protests as part of the Vanguard campaign, including a five day, forty mile walk from the Covanta incinerator in Chester to Vanguard’s headquarters in Malvern. Last month, while about 100 people protested at Vanguard’s offices (16 of whom were arrested), over 700 more from around the country called the asset manager to ask it to take meaningful climate action. 

Vanguard has about $270 billion invested in fossil fuels – making it the world’s biggest investor in fossil fuels. Vanguard’s climate actions lag far behind even slow-moving peers like BlackRock and State Street. According to a 2021 report, Vanguard could lose at least $3 trillion by 2050 if it fails to act on the climate crisis.

Photos from the protest are available here.