Vancity may divest from Enbridge over pipeline: CEO
Andrew Weichel, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, May 10, 2012 3:19PM PDT
A famously ethical Vancouver credit union may pull millions of dollars out of Enbridge over concerns raised by its members surrounding the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
Vancity CEO Tamara Vrooman says the financial institution has $1.4 million invested in Enbridge and another $2.4 million split between Enbridge and Suncor, but that may change if the Calgary-based energy company doesn't address lingering environmental and ethical concerns.
"We really think that there are risks that are being pointed out by our members, by First Nations, by the public, by people in the community, and as investors we want to see Enbridge respond to those risks," Vrooman said.
"If we think those risks are too high we'd obviously have to assess whether it's appropriate to hold stock in that portfolio."
The divestment might not mean much to Enbridge – the energy giant's pipeline project alone carries an estimated $5.5-billion price tag – but could satisfy Vancity members who hold its ethical investment guidelines dear.
Included in the policy are promises to shun the nuclear power industry, animal testing for cosmetic products and all "projects or practices that result in significant environmental damage."
For months, environmentalists have been sounding the alarm over the 1,170-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline for fear of a potential catastrophic oil spill that could wreak havoc on the mainland or B.C. coast.
The pipeline is expected to carry more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day across roughly 1,000 streams and rivers, including several salmon spawning habitats.
On Wednesday, pipeline opponents in the Vancouver Island-based Forest Action Network called on Vancity to live up to its promise of responsible corporate citizenship.
"It was a surprise to us and thousands of others that hold accounts in Vancity that they recommend Enbridge as a socially responsible investment," said activist Zoe Blunt.
But Vrooman insists the credit union was already keeping a close eye on the pipeline, and spent months working on a resolution calling on Enbridge to disclose the risk criteria used in the project to ensure it had taken the proper environmental risks into account.
Vancity presented the resolution to Enbridge Wednesday as a shareholder. The company declined to adopt it, but Vrooman says the credit union still isn't prepared to pull its support.
"We're going to continue to monitor the efforts of Enbridge to make sure they are addressing those risks, and we continue to work with them through our shareholder advocacy and advocate for the change," Vrooman said.
"I think that pipelines can be effective ways of transporting what they need to transport. How they do it is what makes a difference to us."
Vancity has previously come out in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, called for action on climate change and successfully achieved carbon-neutral status.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward