Protecting the Arctic


“It’s time for the world to move away from fossil fuel project financing,” says Kelly Hirsch, Senior ESG Analyst at Vancity Investment Management (VCIM).

And Kelly’s right. After more than a year of dialogue, VCIM successfully influenced TD Canada Trust and Scotiabank on a major policy change to ban Arctic oil and gas project financing through being the sole organization that filed a shareholder resolution to both banks last fall.

The urgency to protect the Arctic

In 2016, both Canada and the US implemented a five-year moratorium – temporary ban – on new offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration in the Arctic. In recent years, the Donald Trump administration has been working to reverse the moratorium and issuing leases for oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has led to increased interest.


With the shareholder resolution filing deadline so close to the 2020 US presidential election, there was no time to lose. Even if Trump wasn’t re-elected as president, the environmental consequences of his administration’s decisions would be felt for years to come.

“Fossil fuel projects approved today will destroy pristine habitat forever and they won’t likely produce energy for a decade or more, long past the time when we need to have made serious progress toward a low carbon economy,” says Kelly, who led the discussion with the banks. “We need to be investing capital in renewable energy now – and not fossil fuels – if we want a chance at preventing the worst impacts of climate change.”


What is a shareholder resolution?

VCIM can engage companies by filing a shareholder resolution on behalf of investors.  Resolution ask companies to address issues of concern and generally result in a dialogue with company management or are put to a vote at the company’s annual general meeting.


Creating a ripple effect

Last week we shared Vancity’s five climate commitments for a cleaner and fairer world that puts people at its centre and leaves no one behind.

“We’re respected for our values-based approach to banking, which has made us a trusted voice on risks and what matters to investors,” says Joe Reid, VP Wealth Management and Impact Investing. “It makes engaging other organizations on climate issues easier.”

Together with other organizations that were calling on the Arctic financing ban, we raised awareness on the climate, human rights and animal risks of new oil and gas exploration projects in the Arctic to senior leadership at the banks that influenced tangible action.

VCIM has spent the last 25 years showing the world that you don’t have to choose between good returns and positive impact in the world. VCIM went fully fossil fuel-free in 2019. Understanding the Canadian economy’s current reliance on oil and gas, VCIM wants to help our peers in the banking sector move towards financing lower carbon projects.


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