Aspen administrators this week passed changes to the city’s financial policy to restrict investment of public money only in companies that meet the criteria for an environmental scorecard.
The unanimous city council decision on Tuesday night to pass the resolution was the Aspen government’s latest effort to align its progressive environmental goals with its business decisions. At its February 1 meeting, board members asked Pete Strecker to complete work on an updated investment policy, which he did.
Along with Resolution # 29, Strecker presented elected officials with 24 pages of the city’s updated financial and investment policies, which include segments on budgets, property taxes, emergency credits, and more.
The most notable addition, which Strecker pointed out to council, was the âgreenâ chip, which reads: âThe City’s investment in public funds must be such that it conforms to the values ââof the City, including including environmental stewardship. As such, the City will adopt the environmental rating metric derived from the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) ratings provided by the City’s financial advisor, to help guide decision-making in this area. For new investment opportunities, the City will not invest in business offers with an environmental rating below the midpoint of the rating scale.
The adoption of the resolution by the council shows that Aspen “is making great strides forward,” Mayor Torre said. “I feel very comfortable with what we’re doing now and with what we’ve talked about with management, staff and board, that these are the first steps.”
Also at its February 1 meeting, the board agreed to sell $ 3.1 million from Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway holding company when the bonds mature in August.
The city is dismissing Berkshire on what its investment adviser called the company’s poor environmental rating.
The city has $ 131 million in investments. Other companies potentially eligible for the log include Wells Fargo; the city has invested $ 2.9 million in the banking giant and fossil fuel investor, which puts it in the good graces of environmental activist groups.
Locally, this includes 350 Roaring Fork, which coordinator Will Hodges urged board members at Tuesday’s meeting to adopt “an explicit policy of divestment from fossil fuel companies.”
Council members said they will have to dig deeper into the companies’ track record before parting with them. The scorecard criteria to be determined, Strecker said, will inform those decisions.
Businesses are also feeling political pressure to change.
Wells Fargo, for example, this week announced plans to have net zero financed emissions by 2050 and to align its investment practices with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, which the United States joined in January after Joe Biden became president. Less clear is how this will be factored into the city’s decision regarding its investment with the Bank of San Francisco.
Aspen Resolution No.29 approved this week notes: âThe city council has requested a link between the investment of public funds and the environmental stewardship of the entities that the city includes in its investment portfolio, and allows the establishment and the application of a measure so as not to indirectly support the harmful effects that certain institutions may have on the environment.
Resident Jim Stone told council members at the virtual meeting that Aspen has leverage in shaping its policies.
âAspen is so influential that an explicit policy to avoid fossil fuels is a hell of a good first step,â Stone said.