We’re on a mission to get climate-friendly options in every 401(k).
We believe everyone deserves a healthy planet to enjoy in retirement. Before starting Sphere we kept being told that we just couldn’t have a climate-friendly option to invest in when it came to our 401(k)s. When we kept asking why, we learned that it doesn’t have to be this way. Especially because investing with your values usually means investing wisely when it comes to risks and returns. Wealthy families and institutions have been protecting their investments by divesting from fossil fuels for years. We created Sphere so that everyone can get access to climate-friendly investment options, no matter where, or how much, they invest.
of Americans are worried about climate change.
Year we’ll hit 1.5°C of warming, at current emissions rates.
Amount invested in fossil fuel companies through 401(k)s.
Source: Pew Research, Sphere survey
There are a lot of climate-friendly investment funds out there. There are even climate-friendly 401(k) platforms. But it can be really hard to get a climate-friendly investment option on the 401(k) platform that your company already uses. And switching 401(k) platforms can be a headache.
Alex first discovered how hard it is to offer climate-friendly investment options in 401(k)s when running her first climate-tech startup, Ayar Labs, an MIT spinout that makes data centers and supercomputers more energy-efficient by using light to move data between chips. When she talked to other climate tech founders, she learned that they faced the same issue too. Despite there being plenty of climate-friendly investment funds out there, they were close to impossible to add as investment options in company 401(k)s.
She started talking to as many people as she could in the 401(k) industry to learn why this was, and she learned that there are some real structural reasons that it is hard to add climate-friendly funds to 401(k)s and 403(b)s. But she also realized that none of those structural issues are insurmountable. She founded Sphere to address those issues head-on and make it easy for every company to offer climate-friendly investing to employees.
Our team has decades of experience both working against climate change and stewarding the investments of individuals and institutions at top financial institutions.
We divest to tell fossil fuel companies to:
Stop lobbying against climate legislation.
Join us on the right side of history.
Come to the table to discuss real climate solutions.
Help limit warming to the 1.5°C level scientists recommend.
Divestment is a social movement tactic that draws attention to an issue. It is a way for regular people to state loudly and clearly that the status quo is not ok. It was used to fight against the Apartheid system of institutional racial oppression in South Africa in the 1980s, and many credit some of the success of the anti-Apartheid movement to the public pressure that the divestment campaign put on companies that upheld Apartheid. Until we put our money where our heart is, there will be no reason for fossil fuel companies to stop doing business as usual.
Which fossil fuel companies do we divest from?
We aren’t picking “good” or “bad” companies (based on carbon footprint, amount invested in renewable energy, or whether they have a net zero carbon commitment by 2050.) We are refusing to invest in fossil fuel companies until global legislation is in place that limits warming to 1.5°C (450 ppm of CO2 equivalent) - the level that scientists say keeps us safe.
We define fossil fuel companies as companies whose core line of business is in extracting, distributing, refining, or burning fossil fuels, or in supplying equipment for those activities. Specifically, we use the definition of the non-profit As You Sow, which runs the fantastic website fossilfreefunds.org, to define which companies we exclude.
How we’re different
A number of climate-friendly and fossil-free funds exist, but many of them are exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are not allowed on the major 401(k) and 403(b) platforms.
There are also a number of “ESG” - environmental, social, and governance - funds available on 401(k) and 403(b) platforms, but most of them invest in fossil fuel companies. Why? Because ESG is not the same thing as climate-friendly, and each ESG fund manager interprets ESG to mean something different.
Sphere offers a climate-friendly investment option that is truly fossil-free, and that can be added to 401(k) platforms. It checks all the boxes that employers look for when adding funds to their 401(k) and 403(b) lineups. And it votes your shares so that you’re encouraging the companies you invest in to do better when it comes to the planet. Let’s make sure everyone has a healthy planet to enjoy in retirement.
Everyone deserves a healthy planet to enjoy in retirement.
Many non-fossil fuel companies have massive carbon footprints. Do we still invest in them?
We do. There are several fantastic efforts in place for activist shareholders to encourage the companies they invest in to create climate action plans, such as the investor interest group Climate Action 100+ and the hedge fund Engine No. 1. We pledge to vote for the climate on the shareholder resolutions of the companies we invest in.
Companies in carbon-intensive industries, such as airline, shipping, and logistics companies do have the ability to operate within their lines of business with significantly reduced carbon footprints, thanks to technological innovations. Fossil fuel companies have to entirely change their business models to significantly reduce their carbon footprints - this is likely why we see them opting for the alternative, which is to fund the most powerful lobbyists in the world to actively fight against climate legislation that would keep us safe. The activist shareholder tactics that are making headway in other industries are not enough for the fossil fuel industry, because of how much money and power resides in the fossil fuel lobby. That is why we focus our efforts on the fossil fuel industry in particular.