I wrote a letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald in print December 31, 2019 and available online here regarding my concern for Maine children earning money for college from the destruction of our planet.
After researching funds I am invested in related to criminal acts by pharmaceutical companies, I checked on my daughter’s Alfond Scholarship 529 account. It is invested with BlackRock / iShares and I was told there is no way to find out specific investments in drug companies. I didn’t want her invested in companies that mislead the public regarding how deadly some psychiatric medication is.
A little while later while mentioning this at a lunch in Silicone Valley in October, one person mentioned the name BlackRock in the context of climate change. I remembered that is what the Alfond scholarships use and looked it up later.
BlackRock has become known as the company most responsible for investments that drive climate change in the world. I called the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) and though there are socially responsible funds through FAME that other 529 account investments FAME manages can be changed to, for the Alfond Scholarship investments those options are not available. The Alfond Scholarship Foundation myalfondgrant.org decides on what those accounts are invested in.
The Alfond Scholarship Foundation reports on their site that as of 2019, $50 million in grant money, $500 per child for 100,000 Maine children have been invested. Though my daughter’s account was from 2011 and can be cancelled, newborns and their parents starting in 2013 lost the choice to opt in or out as money is invested for them automatically – in the company currently doing the most damage to the earth through investments that accelerate global warming. That is $50,000,000 plus earnings in the name of Maine children accelerating the destruction of our fragile earth.
I expressed my disappointment around this to FAME in the fall. With even children joining protests to demand immediate action on climate change, it weighed heavily on me that all Maine newborns through first graders are invested and earning money from the destruction of our planet – and without the permission of them or their parents.
I would like to see all Alfond Scholarship investments shifted immediately to the socially responsible funds available through FAME to start, possibly with the choice for parents to change to other options if say they didn’t believe in climate change, or they really appreciate guns, as BlackRock’s iShares that these children are invested in is also the largest investor in the world of weapons manufacture.
I think it would be an awesome move by Alfond to remove the funds from BlackRock / iShares to show children and parents in Maine how much they care about the future of Maine children. If you do too, please contact them at myalfondgrant.org to let them know.
Soon after my letter to the Portland Press Herald was published, BlackRock C.E.O and founder Larry Fink put out letters to corporate executives and investors highlighting a shift in policies toward sustainable investing. The sustainability term was frequently used, though often it seemed in the context of sustainable investment returns rather than sustaining the earth for our children. I was encouraged listening to an interview with Larry about the letters and articles including one in the New York Times suggesting he will influence climate friendly changes in investments and investment choices. It was also discussed that his letters may provide cover for companies who want to add climate considerations to their fiduciary mandates to produce income for investors.