SYDNEY// FEBRUARY 9th, 2015: In the lead up to the Global Divestment Day this week, Australian Foundations, Philanthropists and Super Funds have joined the fossil fuel divestment stampede, signing up to the DivestFossilFuels pledge.

Ross Knowles and Dr John McKinnon established the Climate Advocacy Association to create DivestFossilFuels, a platform for Australian Foundations, Philanthropists and Super Funds to pledge to divest their shares and funds from “all direct investment in the prospecting, extraction, transport, sale and the burning of fossil fuels and maintain our investments as fossil fuel free.”

“We in Australia are part of a Global movement of Foundations who are aligning their investments with their mission and divesting from fossil fuels,” Mr Knowles said.

Last year during the Ban Ki Moon Summit in New York a new initiative launched called Global Divest/Invest Coalition with a combined pledge of US$50billion being shifted out of fossil fuel investments by the likes of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Mark Ruffalo, Norman and Lyn Lear, World Council of Churches and the NRDC.

The Global Site, which is based in the US has 70 Foundations as signatories. 7 of the 70 are Australian foundations, the largest representation of any country outside the USA. This prompted the idea to carry a similar action out here in Australia.

“It seems crazy to invest in the problem and then use grants to try to undo what the investments have done, and why use only 5% of our funds for good (via grants) when 100% can be used for good via better investments,“ Dr McKinnon said.

“My children already ask what my generation did to prevent this disaster. How can I say we remained invested in the source of the problem? The situation is urgent, the time for half measures is well past. All the world must stop supporting fossil fuels now if we are to stop dangerous climate change,” John said.

With no fanfare, the Australian Divestfossilfuels website has already attracted nine Foundations as signatories (including all seven that are signatories to Divest-Invest). The current total value of funds invested is in excess of $24,000,000.

There are also 25 Super Fund signatories listed on the Divestfossilfuels website with total invested funds in excess of $31,000,000.

“From my previous career I know the inherent conservativeness and herd mentality of the investment community. It needs leaders to act first and show the way. We are happy to take that on – renewables and other positive technologies and solutions need support. Why limit that support to grants when we can invest?” Dr McKinnon said.


Dr John McKinnon (Spokesperson): John began his career in the finance industry. After holding several positions in funds management, asset consulting and superannuation consulting, John co-founded the Australian office of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo LLC in 1995. For the subsequent ten years he was responsible for GMOA’s Australian equity investments, which grew to approximately AUD 6 billion. Post 1997, John was the senior partner of the business, which, when he left in 2005, had over $10b in total funds under management, 23 staff, and revenues in excess of $40m.

In 2005 John joined overseas aid and development charity TEAR Australia, where he managed first the NSW office and then TEAR’s Australian operations. During this time John completed his PhD in social enterprise and development, investigating the intersection of finance and poverty alleviation.Since 2012 John, together with his wife Sue, has managed the McKinnon Family Foundation, a private ancillary fund that focuses on support for the environment, poverty alleviation and social enterprise development. Both John and Sue are keen to maximise use of their assets, which means investing the corpus as much as possible in line with their values and the mission of the foundation. Hence they have been at the forefront of impact investing.John sits on a number of boards including the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network and two social enterprises.

Ross Knowles: Ross is Chairman of Ethinvest and was its co-founder in 1989. He is also Chairman of its subsidiary, Australian Impact Investments. He was the founding co-president of the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, and was editor of the book Ethical Investment (CHOICE Books 1997).Ross is a keen environmentalist and has played a part in the protection of some significant Australian wilderness areas including Washpool National Park on the northern ranges of NSW and Yengo National Park north of Sydney.

He has also discovered three new species of Australian frog, two of which are on the endangered species list. Ross is on the Board of the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, part of the University of Adelaide. He is a Trustee of four charitable foundations (PAF’s) including his own, which are all dedicated to addressing environmental issues. He is a keen wildlife photographer, bushwalker, sailor and (touring) cyclist.