Gates Foundation divests from BP

Alec Connon (right) helps tow an extra kayak for Bill and Melinda. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh)
Alec Connon (right) helps tow an extra kayak for Bill and Melinda Gates at a demonstration near their home on Lake Washington. (Photo by Goorish Wibneh)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has divested all its holdings in oil company BP, according to The Guardian, which reported the news last week.

The foundation’s investment in BP was worth $187 million, according to The Guardian, which also reported the foundation’s holdings in oil, coal and gas stocks have dropped 85 percent since 2014.

The $40 billion foundation gives grants to organizations and projects that address health, education and poverty issues throughout the world and in the United States. But critics have said that the foundation’s mission is at odds with investments that the foundation’s trust puts in fossil fuel companies.

The Guardian said the information about the sell-off of BP stock was made available in the most recent regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Environmental groups have called for the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels completely, with several local demonstrations in front of the Gates Foundation’s Seattle offices and on Lake Washington in view of Gates’ home in Medina.

In a November 2015 article in The Atlantic Bill Gates’ gave his first public response about divestment from fossil fuel companies, calling divestment a “false solution.”

But divestment activists took exception, telling the Globalist last year that high profile foundations removing investments from fossil fuel companies would make a strong statement, similar to investors refusing to do business with tobacco companies or in South Africa during the apartheid era.

Filings made public in 2015 showed the Foundation sold off 8.1 million Exxon Mobile shares valued at $765.9 million. However, these moves could have been primarily financial, the Guardian reported.

The Gates Foundation’s investments in fossil fuels aren’t the only investments that have come under fire. The foundation has also been criticized for investments in private prison contractor GEO Group, which operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. However, GEO Group is not listed as an investment in the Gates Foundation Trust’s 2014 tax filings, the most recent information that the Foundation has made available on its website.

When reached for comment by the Globalist, the Gates Foundation said that the endowment is independently managed by a separate entity and the Gates Foundation Trust not comment on its investment holdings and decisions.