Social(K) BLOG
June 22, 2023

AtmoSphere: 99% of 401(k) plans have no climate-friendly option

Article originally appeared here

The average American has $6,000 invested in fossil fuels. This, despite the fact that 82% of Americans are worried about climate change. That number doesn’t just include the political left. In fact, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans believe climate change is real and is caused by humans. The AtmoSphere is the first tool that shows the climate impact of any 401(k) in America. “This is Google Search for your 401(k),” said Doug Burnett, Chief Creative Officer of Sphere. 

“My colleagues at Google and I have been asking our benefits team for years to bring climate-friendly investment options into our 401(k) plan. The AtmoSphere empowers us with real data to bring to our benefits team and my fellow Googlers on the climate impact of our 401(k), to show that the time is now to give us the option to align our investments with our values,” said a Google employee who asked to remain anonymous.

“I’ve been working with my colleagues for years to bring climate-friendly investment options into our 401(k) plan. The more data we have to make the case for climate-friendly investments — and against high-carbon, high-risk plans— the more compelling the case for our benefits team to offer investment options that match our values,” said an anonymous employee of another big tech company.

A Mercer study published in September showed that 401(k) emissions are on average 33x higher than the direct Scope 1 and 2 emissions of S&P 500 companies. The study was based on a sample of 38 companies out of the S&P 500, and found that 401(k) investment dollars nation-wide have financed about 640 million tCO2e in emissions. Large companies make up a significant portion of that pool of assets with about $50 billion in the Microsoft plan and $20 billion in each of the Apple and Google plans, with each individual plan financing from about 650 thousand to 2 million tCO2e in emissions.

Sphere will be launching an enterprise version of the AtmoSphere platform to help sustainability teams understand and reduce the emissions from their 401(k)s. This will be valuable to companies looking to reduce their 401(k) emissions before proposed updates to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol go into effect that may require some companies to report those emissions publicly.

“By making information about the climate impact of 401(k) plans freely available to everyone, we hope to raise awareness of how far we have to go before climate-friendly investment options become available to all,” said Alex Wright-Gladstein, CEO of Sphere. “Our website also offers case studies and example letters to send to benefits teams, to help employees take action within their own spheres of influence.”

Article originally appeared here

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