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Israeli investment house scores first with pledge not to invest in fossil fuels

Cramim Investments co-founder says move ‘pays off over time’; Extinction Rebellion protests Migdal’s ‘greenwash’ for pledge to apply environmental criteria to investment choices

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

View of chimneys from a refinery in Haifa Bay. (Shay Levy/Flash90)
View of chimneys from a refinery in Haifa Bay. (Shay Levy/Flash90)

Cramim Investments announced Wednesday that it will not fund any companies connected with global warming fossil fuels, becoming the first investment house in Israel to earn a new green investors’ certification developed by environmental groups.

Owned by Adi Sweid and Ran Amitai, and running since 2007, Cramim mainly invests in corporate bonds and companies that are now listed on the fossil fuel-free index, which was formally launched by the Israel Stock Exchange last week.

This is the first index on Israel’s main stock exchange designed to exclude oil and gas firms, and accompanies a Cleantech sector-based index also inaugurated in recent weeks.

Those who are interested in investing in fossil fuels still have the option of indices such as the dedicated Oil and Gas Index, which has operated since 2011.

Cramim will be certified by the Clean Money Forum, established earlier this year to deal with financial aspects of the climate crisis, under the aegis of Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for the country’s green nonprofits.

Adi Sweid, co-owner of Cramim Investments, the first investment house in Israel to announce that it will not fund companies involved in fossil fuels. (Sergei Litvak)

Sweid said that the financial industry can and should have a big impact on preserving the environment and lowering pollution levels.

“Beyond the environmental issue, investing in stocks of companies that do not use fossil fuels has proven itself to pay off over time,” Sweid said.

“We took a strategic step today. We will not invest in ‘black companies,’ and we call on more investment houses to follow us, for the sake of future generations.”

With pressure starting to mount on Israel’s financial sector to orient their investments away from fossil fuel companies, environmental activists on Wednesday took their protest to one of the country’s large investment houses, accusing it of “greenwashing.”

The campaigners from Extinction Rebellion dumped a pile of fake excrement onto the floor of the Migdal customer services center in the central city of Petah Tikva, poured green paint over it and erected signs, saying “Greenwash: Same shit, now in green” and “Diverting attention, not investments.”

Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion protest at the customer services center of Migdal Group in the central city of Petah Tikva, December 16, 2020. (Courtesy, Extinction Rebellion)

Migdal, which deals in insurance, pensions and savings, announced last month that it intends to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into all of its investment decisions.

Extinction Rebellion has previously demonstrated in front of investment houses Menorah, Psagot and Harel. This was the second protest event at Migdal.

On Monday, Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel told the annual Eli Hurvitz Conference on the Economy and Society that the time had come for the country’s financial sector to step up to the plate by directing capital and investment toward a cleaner, more sustainable economy.

Israeli finance “must be an integral part of the environmental revolution in Israel, and allow investors to choose wisely how to act according to their worldview and invest in corporations and financial instruments that incorporate environmental considerations,” Gamliel said.

The Israeli finance sector’s adoption of ESG — environmental, social, and corporate governance — lags way behind much of the developed world, Anat Guetta, chairwoman of the Israel Securities Authority, told the conference.

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