Permanent Fund Corporation to study ethical and sustainable investing

Fixed Income Portfolio Manager Maria (Masha) Skuratovskaya studies her screens at the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., March 14, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation has about $5 billion invested in fossil fuels. That includes stock in companies like Halliburton, Exxon, BP and Tesoro.

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A coalition of groups, including the Alaska Climate Action Network and Oasis Earth, wants that to change. On Dec. 11, during a Board of Trustees meeting in Anchorage, they petitioned the Permanent Fund’s board to drop all its fossil fuel holdings.

Rick Steiner, of Oasis Earth, has been pressuring the Corporation and the state for 25 years to drop those investments.

And for the first time, the Corporation’s Board of Trustees has requested a meeting to talk about the sustainability and ethical impacts of its investments.

“I was elated. I mean, in a way it took me a minute to really process that,” Steiner said.

Steiner said he hopes it’s the first step toward a screening process for investments that could cause social or environmental harm.

Steiner has also requested that the Permanent Fund Corporation provide a history of the performance of its fossil fuels holdings. He said that data would likely show that they are not profitable anymore.

“Socially responsible investing has proven itself to be more lucrative, more popular. And some of these other negative investments — such as fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, corrupt company activities throughout the world — which the Alaska fund is still invested in — they’re a drain on a total portfolio, not an asset,” Steiner said.

The Permanent Fund Corporation responded to him on Friday, saying it couldn’t track that performance data. 

No one at the Permanent Fund, or its board, was available to talk about the petition. But, the Corporation sent a written statement saying that it was too soon to know the framework for its socially responsible investment session.

Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.

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