We are at a critical juncture in history that will determine the length and quality of our survival on this planet. There is no understating the urgent obligation of every government and corporation to make drastic and immediate changes to investment and spending decisions for the betterment of our planet and our economy. It is time to move away from reactive measures and effect the changes that will create a brighter future for Chicago. That’s why I’m committed to following environmental proposals:
ESG investing refers to the practice of considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in addition to traditional financial principles when making investment decisions. Commitment to strong ESG principles ensures that our City’s investments are both impact informed and financially sound.
ESG factors include such concerns as labor standards and practices, business ethics and diversity as well as environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions, dependence on fossil fuel investments and more.
Many cities have adopted ESG standards, recognizing that their role in the marketplace is not only ethically and environmentally responsible, but also profitable.
The S&P Index created an ESG Index to track ESG growth, and that index saw 14.52% total returns in the 2016 calendar year--2.56% higher than the S&P 500 as a whole.
Translation: it’s a good investment strategy, and it’s the right thing to do for our the health and safety of our communities.
As Treasurer, I am committed to codifying the ESG standards that have been adopted by Treasurer Summers, and I am committed to going further and working with the City Council to codify those standards. I want to ensure that the Office of the Treasurer is bound to a higher standard of investment principles, regardless of who holds that office. We should stay the course charted by Treasurer Summers, who led the Chicago City Treasurer’s Office in 2018 to be the first city treasury to commit to upholding the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, an ESG-grounded initiative.
I support Ald. John Arena’s already proposed ordinance to do just that, and will work with him to pass it before this term is up. If we can’t get it done under the current administration, I’ll work with aldermen to have it reintroduced and passed right away in the new term beginning in May.
ESG standards provide a unique opportunity to improve the environmental health of the City of Chicago, diversify our portfolio, and provide more ample financial returns for all Chicagoans.
Commitment to GND Coalition
Across the globe, cities are standing up to make meaningful, systemic changes to stem the tide of climate change and the decline of our environment’s health. I am committed to not only the betterment of Chicago’s financial well-being, but also its environmental health.
As Treasurer, I will make Chicago the municipal launching point of the Green New Deal. This will mean convening labor, environmental and community allies from across Chicago to develop strategies and plans for fundamental changes to our infrastructure and economy to ensure a greener future that provides employment, opportunity and financial returns for all Chicagoans.
I will assemble and release a report within my first 100 days in office on a Green New Deal for Chicago. This report will analyze both our city’s investment portfolio and the pensions system’s fund roster, and how they can be enhanced to address the urgent concern of climate change while moving us towards the creation of a fully green economy that provides jobs for all Chicagoans and actively improves the environmental health of the city, which will in turn benefit public health and investment returns.
Divesting from fossil fuels
Financial dependence on the fossil fuel industry is not only environmentally reckless, but it is financially imprudent. The effort to move investments away from fossil fuels gained traction in 2011 and as of September 2018 the funds committed globally to fossil fuel divestment totaled more than $6 trillion dollars, today that number is more than $8 trillion dollars.
Divesting from fossil fuels is not financially prudent given that by most accounts the current fossil fuels we have in reserves are more than can ever be expended without catastrophic climate change and environmental damage.
ESG standards will help us guide the portfolio away from fossil not only because of their financial obsolescence but also because energy efficient investments show better returns because of their commitment to future innovation.
In addition, I pledge to never accept political contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Infrastructure Trust for Green Projects and Job Training
The Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) provides a unique opportunity to focus on infrastructure in Chicago for the overall betterment and success of our City, but it is under-resourced and as such has only served to cost taxpayers money without producing results.
The City Treasurer is an advisory director to the CIT. I will use that position to address inefficiencies and to shift the infrastructure program to one focused on green technology and infrastructure as well as a program that includes job training. By focusing programming on green infrastructure and employment opportunity, we can provide returns for working Chicagoans while also improving improving public health and making necessary changes to our infrastructure to ensure an environmentally viable Chicago.
The Chicago Solar Ground Mount Program - which seeks to promote clean energy and test the viability of solar grids in Chicago to benefit all Chicagoans - was announced in October of 2018, but it lacks an essential element for clean energy success in Chicago: job training.