One of the largest public retirement funds in the US — best known by its acronym “TIAA” — holds over a trillion dollars in assets and represents nearly 5 million active and retired teachers. It’s also one of the largest institutional investors in fossil fuels.
CIEL supported the flagship TIAA-Divest! campaign urging TIAA to drop its fossil fuel holdings and assets. Leveraging CIEL’s legal analysis, 300 professors and scientists brought a climate-washing complaint against the $1.2 trillion retirement giant. The complaint alleged that TIAA’s substantial investments in fossil fuels and activities driving deforestation violate its climate pledges, responsible investment principles, and its duties to look out for the long-term interests of employees and retirees. The complainants called on the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), of which TIAA is a signatory, to investigate and take action. When PRI refused to act, CIEL secured global media coverage criticizing its inaction. Since the complaint was introduced, PRI restarted a review of its minimum requirements.
Outside the TIAA campaign, CIEL pushed for stronger regulations requiring financial actors to disclose climate-related risks through submissions to several US and international financial regulatory bodies. These efforts have helped elevate and mainstream concerns about reliance on CCS and carbon offsets, among other key dimensions of fossil fuel-related climate risk.