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Prince William's charity invests in world's biggest backers of fossil fuels

The conservation charity founded by Prince William, second in line to the British throne and who launched the Earthshot Prize, keeps its investments in a bank that is one of the world's biggest backer

Prince William

Britain's Prince William

AP London
The conservation charity founded by Prince William, second in line to the British throne and who launched the Earthshot Prize, keeps its investments in a bank that is one of the world's biggest backers of fossil fuels, The Associated Press has learned.
The Royal Foundation also places more than half of its investments in a fund advertised as green that owns shares in large food companies that buy palm oil from companies linked to deforestation.
The earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice, the prince, a well-known environmentalist, is quoted saying on the websites of the Earthshot Prize and Royal Foundation.
Yet in 2021, the charity kept more than 1.1 million pounds (USD 1.3 million) with JPMorgan Chase, according to the most recent filings, and still invests with the corporation today.
The foundation also held 1.7 million pounds (USD 2 million) in a fund run by British firm Cazenove Capital Management, according to the 2021 filing.
As with JPMorgan, it still keeps funds with Cazenove, which in May had securities linked to deforestation through their use of palm oil.
The foundation invested similar amounts in both funds in 2020, its older filings show. As of December 2021, the charity also held more than 10 million pounds (USD 12.1 million) in cash.
The investments, which the Royal Foundation didn't dispute when contacted by the AP, come as top scientists repeatedly warn that the world must shift away from fossil fuels to sharply reduce emissions and avoid more and increasingly intense extreme weather events.
Financial experts say investments like those of the foundation can be blind spots for charities and philanthropies.
As climate change is an increasing area of attention for foundations and others, organisations have sometimes struggled to recognise where their own investments lie and align them with more environmentally friendly choices, despite growing numbers of ways to steer clear of funds linked to fossil fuels.
Like the Royal Foundation, in recent years other foundations, including high profile British charities like the National Trust and Wellcome Trust, also have faced criticism for investments with strong connections to fossil fuels or environmentally harmful practices.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates announced that he divested his foundation's direct oil and gas holdings in 2019.
Charities that are talking the talk also need to walk the walk, said Andreas Hoepner, professor of Operational Risk, Banking and Finance at University College Dublin, who helped design several European Union climate benchmarks and has sat on its sustainable finance group.
There are funds that are more sustainably oriented, Hoepner added, pointing to a dozen alternatives to the JPMorgan product that are marketed as sustainable.
There are also alternatives to Cazenove's sustainability fund.
For example, funds manager CCLA caters to churches and charities and does not invest in businesses that get more than 10 per cent of their revenue from oil and gas.
Another option is Generation Investment Management, founded in part by former US Vice President Al Gore.
The Royal Foundation said by email that it had followed Church of England guidelines on ethical investment since 2015, and goes beyond them.
We take our investment policies extremely seriously and review them regularly, the statement said.
The foundation said management fees paid to JPMorgan were small, but declined to provide a figure.
It's not clear what role, if any, Prince William had in investment decisions, as he did not respond to AP requests for comment.
JPMorgan Asset Management in an email declined to comment on questions about charities investing in their products despite its record of financing fossil fuels.
Bloomberg data show JPMorgan has underwritten more bonds and loans for the fossil fuel industry and earned greater fees than its competitors in the five years up to 2021.
Environmental NGO Rainforest Action Network looked at direct loans and stock ownership along with bonds and estimated that between 2016 and 2021, JPMorgan's banking arm financed fossil fuel companies with some USD 382 billion. This was more than any other bank.
Major investors have their pick of companies to manage their assets, and mission-driven institutions have options well beyond the world's worst fossil fuel bank, said Jason Disterhoft, senior energy campaigner with Rainforest Action Network.
As one of the world's biggest banks, JPMorgan is also a leading financier of green projects, and has set a target of investing USD 1 trillion in these over the next decade.
However, it made about USD 985 million in revenue from fossil fuels compared to USD 310 million from green projects since the Paris Agreement in 2015, about three times more, according to Bloomberg Data.
Compared to some other charities, the Royal Foundation's investments are small, with little impact on climate change.
But they are not in line with the ethos of the foundation, which lists conservation and mental health as main points of emphasis, or Prince William's public statements.
In July, the Royal Foundation announced that the Earthshot Prize had become an independent charity and Prince William would be its president.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Aug 19 2022 | 2:21 PM IST

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