Quakers on both sides of the Atlantic joined together on October 7—the 250th anniversary of the death of American Quaker minister and abolitionist John Woolman—to draw attention to the harmful environmental impacts of the Vanguard Group.
Based in the Philadelphia suburb of Malvern, Pa., the Vanguard Group is the second largest investor in the world, managing over $8 trillion on behalf of millions of clients. According to the U.S.-based Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), “Vanguard is driving the climate crisis. Its investments pour billions into the industries destroying the climate.”
On October 7 nearly 50 EQAT members gathered to worship and pray in front of the suburban Philadelphia home of Tim Buckley, CEO of the Vanguard Group. At the same time in the UK, more than 60 members of EarthQuakes, a British Quaker environmental group, sat in worship outside Vanguard’s office in London, and over 150 people joined online in an effort coordinated by another U.S. group, Quaker Earthcare Witness.
Meeting for Worship in front of the suburban Philadelphia home of Tim Buckley, CEO of the Vanguard Group. Photos by Barbara Benton (left, top right) and Rachael Warriner (bottom right).
“We are bringing the urgency of the climate crisis to Tim Buckley’s doorstep,” explained Carolyn McCoy, an EQAT board member. “But we are also sincerely praying for him to show courage, as we seek divine guidance and courage ourselves in the face of the greatest crisis humanity has known.”
The October 7 event is a part of an ongoing campaign to address the impacts of Vanguard’s investments on the environment. In April, EQAT led a 40-mile walk from polluting facilities along the Delaware River to Vanguard’s headquarters in Malvern. In September, eight people from EQAT and Extinction Rebellion Philly were arrested at Vanguard’s headquarters for refusing to leave when they were denied a meeting with Vanguard’s global head of investment stewardship.
Following the October 7 event, an open letter was sent to Buckley urging him to reflect on his own role in averting climate chaos and encouraging him to participate in next month’s global COP27 conference on climate change in Egypt. A November 16 action organized by EQAT plans to bring together many Philadelphia-area groups during COP27.
EarthQuakes, a British Quaker environmental group, sitting in worship outside Vanguard’s office in London.
Both British and American Quakers spoke about the importance of John Woolman to their actions. Bristol Quaker Julia Bush, who helped organize the London witness, said, “We are inspired by John Woolman’s amazing record of eighteenth-century faith-led campaigning. He understood that abuse of the natural world is a source of poverty and war as well as an offense against God’s creation.”
“In his day, John Woolman spoke powerfully about the harm done out of greed, and we are doing the same today. Vanguard has put short-term profit over the well-being of people and the planet, which ultimately hurts us all, including Vanguard customers,” said Eileen Flanagan, codirector of EQAT.