Social(K) BLOG
November 17, 2021

Now available for your plan

Sphere and Reflection Asset Management launch SPFFX, the first index fund to get fossil fuels out of any 401(k) plan

The competitively-priced fund invests in the top 500 US companies minus ~40 fossil fuel companies, with its index historically outperforming the SPDR S&P 500 ETF

Sphere announced today that it has partnered with SEC-registered investment advisory firm Reflection Asset Management (RAM) to launch the Sphere 500 Fossil-Free Index Fund (SPFFX), a mutual fund designed to remove the barriers that have kept fossil-free options out of 401(k) retirement plans until now.

The fund is the first U.S.-based option of its kind and launches as over 80 percent of Americans report seeing climate change as a threat, according to Pew Research, and yet 99 percent of Americans with 401(k) retirement savings are not invested in climate funds, or funds that avoid owning fossil fuel companies. While climate change is a topic that individuals often feel helpless to solve, SPFFX offers a concrete way for investors to make an impact, without giving up quality of life or expected returns on retirement savings.

The fund is available on brokerage platforms, including Interactive Brokers, with Vanguard and Vestwell in the process of onboarding, and on 401(k) platforms such as Matrix and Mid Atlantic Capital Group. Additional platforms are being added. Financial firms Green Retirement and Carbon Collective plan to offer the fund to 401(k) clients.

SPFFX has already found traction beyond its target market of 401(k)s, with launching investments from Eliot Horowitz, co-founder of tech unicorn MongoDB, and Clay Rockefeller, great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the first US billionaire oil baron, whose descendants, through the Rockefeller Foundation, have committed to divest its $5 Bn endowment from fossil fuel interests, a major bellwether for the fossil fuel divestment movement.

“We could not be more thrilled to be partnering with the team at RAM to launch this fund,” said Sphere founder and CEO Alex Wright-Gladstein. “By offering this product, RAM is demonstrating their commitment to making a difference on climate change by making a values-aligned investment product available not only to wealthy investors, but also to everyday people in their retirement plans.”

The Sphere 500 Fossil-Free Index Fund (SPFFX) tracks the Sphere 500 Fossil-Free Index (SPFFXI), which is comprised of the largest 500 US companies by market capitalization, minus approximately forty companies whose primary lines of business are in the fossil fuel industry, as defined by the non-profit As You Sow on their website fossilfreefunds.org.

The SPFFXI index was calculated by independent third-party index calculation agent BITA. The 40 or so companies that are excluded make up about five percent of the total market capitalization of the top 500 group.

“As I write this, drought-parched California is welcoming rain after another record-breaking fire season,” said Timothy Yee, President of Green Retirement. “This investment, reflecting our common desire to live in a healthy world, is one of the easiest ways for the average consumer to bring about change.”

RAM is offering the fund as a single share class with a management fee of seven (7) basis points. This focus on transparent and low pricing aims to enable investors and 401(k) managers to compare this fund’s pricing to that of other large-cap index replication funds, rather than the higher price points that Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)-focused funds often charge.

“In my almost 20 years of designing and building ESG and values-aligned investment products for individuals and institutions, overcoming the challenges of bringing values-aligned products to retirement accounts has been a personal goal,” said Jason Britton, CEO of RAM. “With Sphere’s leadership, SPFFX represents a breakthrough, offering employees the option to have their retirement investments aligned with their vision of a fossil fuel-free tomorrow.”

Avoiding the ESG price premium is a key factor in making a fossil-free option available in 401(k) plans, where employers often face lawsuits for offering 401(k) fund options that are too expensive. Sphere founder Alex Wright-Gladstein experienced firsthand the difficulties of offering expensive fossil-free funds in 401(k)s when running her prior cleantech company, Ayar Labs, where it took years to get a fossil-free option in the company’s retirement plan. Sphere was founded with the intention of providing employers with an easier way to provide their employees with a fossil-free 401(k) option.

Sphere has selected U.S. Bank to provide its comprehensive suite of industry leading multi-series trust services for the fund. They have selected Vigilant Distributors LLC as the distributor for the fund.

“We are excited to partner with Reflection Asset Management and Sphere, as we see a real need in the marketplace for a simple, transparent, low-cost fossil-free fund for 401(k) plans,” said Patrick Chism, CEO of Vigilant Distributors.


About Sphere

Sphere is a registered public benefit corporation that is amplifying a social movement to get 401(k) money out of fossil fuel companies. The company helps employees, employers, and investors take a stand on climate change by providing financial products that are designed for 401(k) plans, and allows HR managers and their advisors to maintain their commitment to fiduciary duty without having to compromise on climate. Learn more at www.oursphere.org.



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