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SLO City Council votes to take a "socially responsible" approach to the city's investments

Posted at 11:35 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 03:06:04-04

The City of San Luis Obispo is re-thinking where its money is invested.

The city puts approximately $75-78 million into investments. Now, staff will be changing to what they said is a more "socially responsible" investment approach.

The city does not currently invest in tobacco products and the production of fossil fuels. Now industries like weapons manufacturers will be added to the list.

"[We may] even take a step further by expanding into the ESG investment strategies and philosophies, which stands for Environmental Social and Governance strategies," Brigitte Elke, Finance Director of the City of San Luis Obispo, said. "This is a more far-reaching philosophy as it does not only look at the end product, it looks at how the product comes to be and looks into the company's social aspects like how it treats its workers."

For example, the number of car manufacturers the city could invest in would be limited because of certain manufacturer's impact on fossil fuels.

Groups like SLO Peace Coalition wanted that same approach for weapons manufacturers.

"This is a great opportunity for SLO to set a national example by rejecting the influence of the war economy and removing our money from militarized violence that's happening here and abroad," Kelsey Zazanis, Co-Founder of the SLO Peace Coalition, said.

The city currently does not have any money invested in weapons or small arms manufacturers, but the change to ESG would make that permanent.

It's important to note, however, this is different than defunding the police or removing weapons from the police department.

"All this initiative would do would prohibit city funds from investing in weapons companies themselves. It would have nothing to do with if these weapons are eventually transferred to local police," Zazanis said.

The city voted 5-0 to move forward with what they say is "a new screening tool for analyzing investments." City staff said this change will potentially better reflect the community's goals in how it invests the public's money.

We reached out to several advocacy groups for weapons manufacturers as well as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon and are still waiting to hear back.

This city said if you want to get more involved in with its investments, you can go to its next investment oversight committee meeting on Sept. 24th at 1:30 p.m.