For-profit

Aspiration

Aspiration is a left-leaning investment institution that claims it will not invest in conventional energy producers, pipelines, oil rigs, and coal mines. Aspiration pledges a donation of ten percent of its fees to a poverty alleviation fund and challenges customers to also donate to one of Aspiration’s partner organizations. The partner organizations include left-leaning climate policy advocates such as the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Sierra Club Foundation, and the Environmental Defense Fund. [1] [2] [3]

Planet of the Humans, an anti-capitalist climate policy documentary released in April 2020 accused Aspiration of investing in several conventional fossil fuel energy firms, such as petroleum producer Exxon. In a post-script at the end of the film, the following additional claim was made: “Shorty after the second showing of this film, Sierra Club’s “green” Aspiration Fund abruptly shut down.” Aspiration responded to this criticism by stating the film had confused two different funds under Aspiration’s management but did not clarify whether a recently shuttered investment fund had invested in fossil fuel producers. [4] [5]

Background

Aspiration Funds is a left-leaning investment institution that claims it will not invest in conventional energy producers, pipelines, oil rigs, and coal mines. [6] Aspiration provides high-interest cash management services, traditional mutual funds, no-fee IRAs and other financial services. [7]

Aspiration operates with a voluntary “pay-what-you-think-is-fair” fee structure, allowing investors to pay Aspiration based on the value a customer perceives to have derived from the fund. In turn, Aspiration pledges a donation of ten percent of its fees to a poverty alleviation fund and challenges customers to also donate to one of Aspiration’s partner organizations. The partner organizations include left-leaning climate policy advocates such as the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Sierra Club Foundation, and the Environmental Defense Fund. [8] [9]

It is possible the partner organizations may also generally benefit from participating with Aspiration. A 2017 statement from the Sierra Club indicated that each Sierra Club member signing up for an account with Aspiration would result in a donation from Aspiration to the Sierra Club, but the specific amount or formula for this commitment was not indicated. [10]

Michael Moore Controversy

Planet of the Humans, an anti-capitalist climate policy documentary produced by left-leaning filmmaker Michael Moore was released in April 2020. The film accused Aspiration of investing in several conventional fossil fuel energy firms, such as petroleum producer Exxon. In a post-script at the end of the film, the following additional claim was made: “Shorty after the second showing of this film, Sierra Club’s “green” Aspiration Fund abruptly shut down.” [11] [12]

On April 24, 2020, Aspiration responded to the film by stating the firm had run more than one investment funds, that its “Aspiration Redwood Fund” had never funded fossil fuels, and that Redwood Fund was the basis of Aspiration’s partnership with the Sierra Club. However, Aspiration also conceded that until earlier in 2020 a separate fund from the firm—the Aspiration Flagship Fund—had been shut down because Aspiration had decided to focus on “sustainable investments” and that the Flagship Fund had never been promoted as being “green” in its investment strategy. [13]

Aspiration’s April 2020 statement did not address whether or not its Flagship Fund had invested in fossil fuel firms, but concluded with the hope that “Mr. Moore and the filmmakers will very quickly fix their mistake as every day that goes by more people are being fed false information.” [14]

References

  1. “Environment.” Aspiration. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://www.aspiration.com/do-good/environment/ ^
  2. “Financial Resistance Package.” Sierra Club, December 14, 2018. https://www.sierraclub.org/michael-brune/2017/06/financial-divestment  ^
  3. “Green Financial Services – Smart Cash Management & Investing.” Aspiration. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.aspiration.com/ ^
  4. “Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ – Setting the Record Straight.” Aspiration , April 24, 2020. https://blog.aspiration.com/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-setting-the-record-straight/ ^
  5. Sev. K. “Environmentalism, Green Capitalism, and Planet of the Humans: A Marxist Review of Michael Moore’s New Film.” Medium. May 2, 2020. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://medium.com/@severin_k/environmentalism-green-capitalism-and-planet-of-the-humans-a-marxist-review-of-michael-moores-9d07736eff67 ^
  6. “Green Financial Services – Smart Cash Management & Investing.” Aspiration. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.aspiration.com/ ^
  7. “Financial Resistance Package.” Sierra Club, December 14, 2018. https://www.sierraclub.org/michael-brune/2017/06/financial-divestment ^
  8. “Environment.” Aspiration. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://www.aspiration.com/do-good/environment/ ^
  9. “Financial Resistance Package.” Sierra Club, December 14, 2018. https://www.sierraclub.org/michael-brune/2017/06/financial-divestment   ^
  10. “Financial Resistance Package.” Sierra Club, December 14, 2018. https://www.sierraclub.org/michael-brune/2017/06/financial-divestment. ^
  11. “Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ – Setting the Record Straight.” Aspiration , April 24, 2020. https://blog.aspiration.com/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-setting-the-record-straight/ ^
  12. Sev. K. “Environmentalism, Green Capitalism, and Planet of the Humans: A Marxist Review of Michael Moore’s New Film.” Medium. May 2, 2020. Accessed June 1, 2020. https://medium.com/@severin_k/environmentalism-green-capitalism-and-planet-of-the-humans-a-marxist-review-of-michael-moores-9d07736eff67 ^
  13. “Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ – Setting the Record Straight.” Aspiration , April 24, 2020. https://blog.aspiration.com/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-setting-the-record-straight/ ^
  14. “Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ – Setting the Record Straight.” Aspiration , April 24, 2020. https://blog.aspiration.com/michael-moores-planet-of-the-humans-setting-the-record-straight/ ^
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