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Rockefeller Brothers Fund Forsakes Its Legacy


The Rockefeller family made its vast fortune in the oil business over a century ago. Now the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is planning to divest itself entirely from fossil fuels. Yuki Noguchi reports on how the family's giant philanthropic foundation is parting ways with its business legacy.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s five sons and the original Standard Oil magnate's grandsons started the fund in 1940. It had a social change agenda promoting peace and justice and sustainability. A tenth of its nearly $900 million in assets are currently invested in clean energy. Stephen Hientz is the fund's president.

STEPHEN HEINTZ: There is something ironic about having all this wealth that was created in the oil industry now being used to move to a different energy future.

NOGUCHI: But Heintz says, about six percent of the fund's investments remain in fossil fuels, which it hopes to reduce to almost nothing.

HEINTZ: This is a process that is an imperative. We have to do this.

NOGUCHI: The Rockefeller Fund is among some 50 philanthropies announcing at today's U.N. summit on climate change. But they are joining other groups divesting from fossil fuels, including the Bullitt Foundation.

Ellen Dorsey is executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, one of the first groups to join the movement and one of its organizers. She says, it may be a largely symbolic gesture now, but the impact can't yet be measured by the number of dollars committed to divest in old energy and invest in new.

ELLEN DORSEY: It's signaling that we need to begin to plan for a future without fossil fuels and that money will be made in this transition.

NOGUCHI: Dorsey says, she hopes the number of groups and individuals joining the pledge will double by the end of next year. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.