SYDNEY// 00:35 APRIL 29: Australian Foundations, Philanthropists and Super Funds continue to put their money where it matters, with over half a billion dollars now signed up to the DivestFossilFuels pledge.

The last month has seen a more than 500% increase in pledges from across the country.

“Recently I’ve been excited to see the global divestment movement expanding and now Australians are joining in with great force, the movement is now unstoppable,” Dr John McKinnon, Climate Advocacy Association said.

“I’m thrilled to see the rapid growth in Philanthropists and Super Funds divesting from fossil fuels,” Ross Knowles, Climate Advocacy Association said.

“Moving their money to accord with their values is what people do when they’re really serious about an issue and $570,000,000+ is a serious statement rejecting the fossil fuel industry and embracing the move to renewable energy,” Mr Knowles said.

“It’s a remarkable and significant signal to the market and to policymakers,” Mr Knowles said.

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 more than 70 Foundations as signatories. 7 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.

“From my previous career I know the inherent conservativeness and herd mentality of the investment community,” Dr McKinnon said.

“It needs leaders to act first and show the way.

“When half a billion dollars of Australian money is pledged, it is a clear and unmistakable sign that things are shifting rapidly, they say money talks after all,” 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.