The Rockefeller Foundation, a 107-year-old philanthropy built by oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, is breaking up with fossil fuels in an effort to save the planet.
Beyond pledging to dump its fossil fuel holdings, the $5 billion endowment is also promising not to make any new investments in the beleaguered sector. The moves make the Rockefeller Foundation the largest U.S. foundation to embrace the rapidly growing divestment movement.
“Burning fossil fuels is not necessary to sustain our economy and economic growth over the long run — and it’s detrimental to our climate future,” Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, told CNN Business in an exclusive interview.
This divestment is especially symbolic because the Rockefeller Foundation was founded by oil money. The endowment was largely built from the proceeds of Standard Oil, a company that at its peak controlled more than 90% of petroleum products in the United States. ExxonMobil traces its roots to Standard Oil.
More than a century later, the Rockefeller Foundation has decided it’s time to cut ties with fossil fuels because such investments conflict with its mission to lift up humanity. The step puts an exclamation point on the enormous pressure facing the fossil fuels industry as socially conscious investing goes mainstream and the climate crisis intensifies.
“It helps to collectively put our thumb on the scale towards a more sustainable future. That’s our hope. That’s our aspiration,” said Shah, who previously led the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Obama administration.