cskolnik cskolnik, May 1, 2023

In March of 2022, 350 Chicago scored a convincing victory in the city of Chicago.  The City divested $70 million in fossil fuel assets from the City’s over 9 Billion dollar portfolio for funding its operations.  Now, 350 Chicago has turned its focus to divesting the state of Illinois. We have recently introduced a bill in the state legislature requiring pension funds under the jurisdiction of the State to divest from fossil fuels. (Read more about our Chicago victory here.)

Representative Will Guzzardi, co-chair of the Illinois House’s Progressive Caucus, introduced Bill HB3037 in the Illinois House on February 16th, 2023. The bill was read in the House, but it was referred to the Rules Committee and will have to be reintroduced in the next session. This outcome was not unexpected since the wording of the bill was finalized at the end of 2022 after thorough review by the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) and the Legislative Review Bureau (LRB). Unfortunately the end of the year coincided with State elections. Two co-sponsors, Representative Joyce Mason and Kelly M. Cassidy were added in March. In April we also found a senate sponsor, Senator Julie Morrison.

The bill amends the pension code to prohibit pension systems from investing in fossil fuel companies and indirect investment vehicles, requires them to publicly disclose their public market and private equity investment, and also requires them to issue reports reviewing their ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investment policies. Read an official synopsis here.

Now is the time to ramp up the campaign and focus on advocacy. On the recommendation of Senator  Aquino we will be reaching out to Senator Martwick, as he is the chair for the special committee on pensions, and see if he will call a subject matter hearing this summer. In general, we need to convince State Representatives and Senators to [cosponsor and?] sign on to the bill. Any bill has to be approved by both houses as part of a complicated approval process.

We have begun both processes in a systematic manner with 350 Chicago members reaching out directly to their State representative and senators. If you would like to join this effort please contact Melissa Brice, head of the Divestment Committee through our contact form here.

Legislators with whom we have already communicated  say they would follow the State Treasurer’s lead in the matter. In the past Treasurer Frerichs has said that he supported shareholder engagement. (See endnote on shareholder engagement.)  However, in recent months, he has been in the news supporting and defending ESG investment along with other State treasures. This is a hopeful sign as ESG strategies affirm accountability and require transparency.

In the summer, we will give tutorials about our campaign to both State Representatives and Senators. We are also planning to meet with pension boards and labor allies. In preparation for these meetings, 350 members are compiling current data on the fiscal case for divestment as well as data about losses incurred by pension funds who have not divested compared to those that have. See the Corporate Knights website for data on losses incurred and projected future losses.

We are hopeful for success in the near future partly because of our victory at the City level and partly because of our early successes garnering support for this campaign. See the organizations who have officially signed on to support the State campaign at the end of this post. However, we also know that the fossil fuel industry will work diligently to undermine our efforts up to and including paying off legislators. See story about the derailed California divestment bill here.

In addition to the support of our allies, we need support from State leaders such as Treasurer Frerichs as well as a broad base of support from Representatives and Senators throughout the state. In other words, we need your help!

Find out more about our campaign at our next Monthly Meeting (5/8/23) or a Divestment Coalition meeting (5/1/23).  See meeting info below:

Monthly Meeting
May 8th, 2023, 06:00 – 7:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada). Second Monday of the month.
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88360894903?pwd=Tm5pREJKUGFNbmtxcHhPTDBMb3dTUT09

Divestment Coalition Meeting
May 1, 2023,  7:30 – 8:30 *Repeats every two weeks.*
Join Zoom Meeting: