Acting on the recommendation of the UUA Socially Responsible Investing Committee, this month the UUA Investment Committee decided to sell Enbridge Inc. in the UUCEF’s separately managed accounts. Enbridge, an oil and gas pipeline company, is a partial owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and is actively building the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota against enormous Indigenous-led, interfaith, and UU opposition.

In parallel with the sale, the Committees also re-affirmed their commitment to further implement the 2020 Business Resolution on Embodying Human Rights in Our Investment Decisions and to ensure follow-up communications with our investment managers and the wider investment community.

Read more below about how Enbridge’s business practices conflict with UU values, the UUCEF’s Enbridge holdings that are being sold, UUCEF socially responsible investing policies and guidelines related to Indigenous people’s rights and climate change, and our next steps.

Enbridge’s Threat to the Rights of Indigenous People and the Global Climate

Enbridge is a Canadian oil and gas pipeline company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in the US. It has a significant investment in DAPL, which cuts through the land of the Standing Rock Sioux and was the subject of major protests by Indigenous water protectors in 2016.

Although it is in the oil and gas business, as a pipeline company Enbridge does not own fossil fuel reserves. It is therefore not in the Carbon Underground 200 and not subject to the 2014 Fossil Fuel Divestment Business Resolution.

Now Enbridge is building a new pipeline corridor—Line 3—across untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples, through the Mississippi River headwaters to the shore of Lake Superior. Defunding the Line 3 pipeline is a major objective of the Stop the Money Pipeline (STMP) coalition, which brings together over 130 organizations in calling out Wall Street’s financing of the climate crisis, in direct solidarity with Indigenous and frontline leadership.

UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) recently joined STMP and reached out to the Socially Responsible Investing Committee with concerns about the UUCEF’s reported holdings in Enbridge as of December 31, 2020.

UUCEF Holdings in Enbridge

As of the end of last year, the UUCEF owned bonds issued by Enbridge with a market value of just under $49,000, representing a less than 0.02% position in the fund. This holding is in a portion of the portfolio managed by Breckinridge Capital Advisors, which has a commitment to and expertise in Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing. The UUCEF has the capacity to instruct Breckinridge to restrict certain securities from our portfolio based on our SRI guidelines and voted to do so.

Bonds are issued by corporations and governments to borrow money to fund operations or in some cases for specific projects. Unlike stocks, they do not confer an ownership stake in a corporation. Therefore, the main moment of leverage or impact is at the initial issue of a bond—whereas shareholders have an ongoing say in the strategy and direction of a corporation. The UUCEF also holds some stock in Enbridge in our shareholder advocacy account.

UUCEF Socially Responsible Investing Policies and Guidelines

The UUCEF’s current Socially Responsible Investing Guidelines include two provisions that provide a basis for excluding Enbridge: “UUCEF investments will also avoid companies that (1) negatively impact Indigenous peoples, immigrants and local communities (2) fail to obtain free, prior and informed consent for projects affecting communities…” However, we did not have more specific corresponding screening criteria and processes to exclude pipelines or other projects on Indigenous lands, and so we had not provided Breckinridge with a restricted list that included Enbridge.

Among other provisions, the Human Rights Business Resolution adopted with 95 percent support at last year’s General Assembly “calls upon the UUA to undertake a comprehensive review of the UUCEF’s SRI Guidelines with regard to human rights concerns, identify significant gaps, if any, and amend the guidelines as necessary.” As the investment committees further implement the resolution, we are continuing to work to ensure that our guidelines, criteria, and processes effectively advance UU values with respect to human rights as expressed in resolutions of the General Assembly and other policies set by the UUA’s governing bodies.

Next Steps

So, to sum up, the decision of the Investment Committee means that:

  • The UUA will add Enbridge to the restricted list of securities provided to Breckinridge and other managers of the UUCEF’s separately managed accounts.
  • Breckinridge has been instructed to liquidate the UUCEF’s holdings of Enbridge bonds.
  • The UUA will hold Enbridge stock in the shareholder advocacy account (which is explicitly permitted under both the Fossil Fuel Divestment and Human Rights Business Resolutions) as we explore whether other faith- and values-based investors, including the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, are interested in pursuing shareholder resolutions with Enbridge.
  • In further developing criteria and processes for implementing the Human Rights Business Resolution, the committees will ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples, including the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, are incorporated.

The Committees appreciate the UUMFE and congregants of First Unitarian in Portland, Oregon, for bringing concerns about Enbridge to our attention. We continue to strengthen communication between our committees and UU social justice groups, congregations and individual UUs concerned about social justice issues as requested in the Human Rights Business Resolution. The next opportunity for dialogue is the UUCEF Quarterly Call. All are welcome—please sign up here.

As always, feel free to reach out to members of our team—staff and volunteers alike—with questions or concerns about how the UUCEF is using investments to promote UU values of human rights, racial justice, and environmental stewardship.