Vanguard’s announcement on Ukraine, plus what we’re up to

I know many of us are following the grim news from Ukraine. Many are pointing out the role that fossil fuels play in enabling brutal regimes, not only in Russia, but in countries that are US allies, like Saudi Arabia. Many are pointing out the role the US has itself played in wars for oil and calling for less reliance on fossil fuels overall–for our communities and climate, but also for world peace. This situation has led to an interesting moment in our campaign. Yesterday, Vanguard announced that it is suspending purchases of Russian securities and is “actively working to further reduce our exposure to Russia and exit the positions across our index funds.”

Here’s the initial response from our friends at the Sunrise Project, who have been following these developments carefully:

  • This statement is a welcome and necessary first step from a company who has been following a pattern of inaction and silence for too long.
  • While it is good to see Vanguard using its public platform to condemn the war on Ukraine and follow market trends and government rules to suspend purchases of Russian securities across its entire portfolio, Vanguard should take its leadership a step further and stay out of Russian fossil fuel companies permanently.
  • Vanguard should use this moment to engage index providers to ensure they do not put these fossil fuel companies back into indices once political tensions ease. Furthermore, moving forward, Vanguard’s investment and stewardship priorities should balance the need of meeting the current energy demands without locking us into runaway climate change; which means prioritizing investments in the energy transition and moving away from fossil fuels.

What strikes me about Vanguard’s move is that it undermines their claims that they can’t pick and choose what they invest in. They can when motivated. We need to keep reinforcing that as we move forward in this campaign.

Despite all that is happening in the world, we can feel spring coming–in the warm days, the eager daffodils, and the planning  for Vanguard’s Big Climate Problem walk. In case you haven’t heard, we’ll be starting on April 18 in Chester, PA–where people breathe the pollution from Vanguard’s toxic investments–and then walking forty miles to Vanguard’s Malvern headquarters, arriving on the morning of April 22, Earth Day. If you haven’t rsvp’d already, please let us know you’re coming, even if you’re not sure which days you can make it. Details will be added here as they emerge.

We know this is going to be great! We’ve already felt so much excitement in this campaign about the potential of pressuring Vanguard, one of the biggest investors in fossil fuels globally, to steer their ship in a new direction. Our last action brought about 68 people to Vanguard headquarters, including students, octogenarians, and members of various climate, faith, and justice groups. Despite the police, who wanted to keep us off Vanguard property, we held a mock press conference with an angel and a devil both whispering in the ear of the company spokesperson, Ms. Dolittle. We heard questions from “The Dollar Street Journal” and “The New York It’s Past Times” In addition to the fun performances, we enjoyed just connecting, despite the cold and wind.

One person speaks into a microphone, while someone dressed as an angel stands to one side of them and someone dressed as a devil stands to the other side. Next to the them of them, three more people hold up a large white banner that says "Vanguard's Very Big Problem"

Top photo by Rachael Warriner

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