Baillie Gifford hits back at Greta Thunberg over ‘greenwashing’ claim

Climate activist was due to discuss her latest appeal for climate action at book festival

Greta Thunberg


Michael Nelson

Baillie Gifford has responded after being accused by climate activist Greta Thunberg of ‘greenwashing’, saying it is “not a significant fossil fuel investor”.

Thunberg pulled out of an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival after claims that Baillie Gifford, which is the lead sponsor for the event, had billions invested in firms that profit from fossil fuels.

Greenwashing efforts by the fossil fuel industry, including sponsorship of cultural events, allow them to keep the social licence to continue operating. I cannot and do not want to be associated with events that accept this kind of sponsorship,” Thunberg said in a statement announcing her withdrawal.

However, Nick Thomas, a partner at Baillie Gifford, has now responded, saying that only 2% of their clients’ money is invested in companies with some business related to fossil fuels, compared to a market average of 11%.

“Of those companies, some have already moved most of their business away from fossil fuels, and many are helping to drive the transition to clean energy,” the statement continued.

“We are investing on behalf of our clients to grow their savings and retirement funds. When we invest in companies on their behalf, we do so over long time periods – typically 10 years or more – so this has naturally led us away from traditional fossil fuel firms. Currently, 5% of our clients’ money is invested in companies whose sole purpose is to develop clean energy solutions. 

“We believe in open debate and discussion which is why we are long-term supporters of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.”

For Rebecca Kowalski, company director at Overstory Finance and ESG Clarity EU Committee member, Thunberg is right to raise the issue and force Baillie Gifford to reveal more information on its investments. However, for Kowalski, it would have been more positive if Thunberg had used her platform at the event to stimulate an open discussion on the topic.

“The points she has raised need to be answered, and it is valid that people question why investment management companies are not reducing their exposure to fossil fuel, or increasing their exposure to renewable energy. It is a shame that this has not played out in a way that encourages debate.”

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