The largest private investor in Norway has pulled out of three companies connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) because of the conflict at Standing Rock.
Storebrand, an Oslo-based financial-services company that specializes in sustainable, socially conscious investing, has sold off nearly $35 million worth of shares in Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and Enbridge, the company announced on March 1.
“Storebrand has made the decision to withdraw all investments from the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, including positions in the North American companies Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Enbridge Inc. and Phillips 66,” said Storebrand in a statement on March 1.
“Our conclusion is that these are poor long-term investments, both for our pension customer and from a sustainability point of view,” the company said.
Storebrand had investments of $11.5 million in Philips 66, $7 million in Marathon Petroleum Corp. and $16.2 million in Enbridge Inc., for a total of $34.8 million, said the company. According to its website, it has been in operation since 1767 and was managing pension funds since 1917, pre-dating Norway’s social security system by 50 years.
“There is too much uncertainty, for us as an investor, as to whether there has been a good process that ensures the rights of all parties in the conflict,” said Matthew Smith, Head of Sustainable Investments. “There has been involvement by the United Nations, by President Obama, and President Trump. Caught in the middle are the people directly impacted by the pipeline.”
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes are still battling the routing of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline past the Standing Rock reservation, although drilling has already been completed, according to reports. The move to divest comes after a months-long standoff between as many as 14,000 water protectors and militarized police and National Guard troops near the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in North Dakota.
Storebrand tried numerous tactics to enact change, Smith said in the statement, but none of them worked.
“Generally, it is our belief that we can have a more positive effect on companies and situations by using our position as an owner to effect change. We have successfully done so on many occasions, but it doesn’t always work,” Smith said. “Storebrand has been in direct contact with the companies, and has worked with international groups of investors. Our most recent initiative is an investor letter, representing 137 investors with $653 billion assets under management, that encourages involved banks that have lent money to the project to use their position and influence to engender positive change and a reconsideration the routing of the pipeline.”
Storebrand was forced to conclude that “active ownership is not going to deliver a better outcome,” he said. “We do hope that this can give a final indication to the involved companies to reconsider the routing of the pipeline.”
The investor joins a growing number of companies and entities that have pulled funds from Wells Fargo and other banks that are financing DAPL, ranging from the City of Seattle to individual account holders. Others, such as New York City, have put DAPL banks on notice.
The decision was not easy, Smith told The Guardian.
“Divestment is a last resort,” he said. “When you divest from companies, you give up your possibility to influence companies to come to a better solution.”
The move continues apace. Indigenous activist Jackie Fielder told The Guardian that she is trying to get San Francisco to divest as well. Having complied with evacuation orders from the Oceti Sakowin campsite near the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota, water protectors have fanned out across the U.S. and beyond to push for divestment.
“The thing about the NoDAPL movement is that it’s everywhere,” Fielder told The Guardian. “We have the economic power to show companies that when they finance an environmentally racist project and hire private security and collude with law enforcement, their bottom line will suffer.”