Tag Archives: ethical investment


13 Feb

IMG_9316IMG_9342_1https://www.facebook.com/edunipeopleandplanet?fref=tsToday people gathered from across the world to demand a fossil free future – one that is free from the injustices of climate change, exacerbated by our continued investment in fossil fuels. Students and staff at Edinburgh University gathered to increase pressure on the university’s ongoing discussions on fossil fuel divestment, looking to reach a critical stage in the next month. The University of Edinburgh continues to invest over £30 million of it’s endowment fund in fossil fuel companies. This is not a sustainable, ethical or socially responsible use of such funds. We demand the university to:

– Immediately freezes any new investment in fossil fuel companies.

– Divests from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years. (By fossil fuel companies we refer to the index of the top 200 fossil fuel companies: http://tinyurl.com/nydvfjg

Action cards were signed, chants were sung and a big model of the Earth was attempted to be kept in the people’s hands, whilst ‘oil monsters’ tried to undermine our efforts…Check out photos from our action here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ricjl/sets/72157650732921726/

And tweet the university today and tomorrow: @Edinburghuni #divest



Investment Consultation: “We campaign because it’s the right thing to do”

22 Jan

Last night around 70 University of Edinburgh students turned out to the first ever consultation event on university investments. No other university has gone this far – to set up a consultation period for students and staff to feed in their ideas about how the university should invest its £284 million endowment fund. The debate was lively, the ideas varied, as students presented their thoughts on ending investments into arms and fossil fuel companies.

Spearheaded by Dave Gorman, new Director of Sustainability, the consultation period begins this week and ends in March. This clear precedent set by the University of Edinburgh follows from a controversial decision last October to cease investing in Ultra Electronics, a company making components for military drones, due to student popular demand. Campaign group People & Planet, who are calling on universities to end their links with fossil fuel companies through investments and sponsorship, welcomed the Consultation, saying it was a unique opportunity for the University of Edinburgh to be a leader in divesting from harmful companies.

A panel of speakers led the debate and answered questions from the audience. Bella Crowe, of People & Planet, outlined the hugely destructive potential that fossil fuel companies have in terms of fuelling catastrophic climate change, and called for a divestment policy to be created that would screen out companies exploiting fossil fuels.

Kirsty Haigh, Vice President of Services, gave a context to the ethical investment campaign, outlining the student demands of making the university investment structure more democratic, transparent and accountable.

Dave Gorman, Director of Sustainability, expressed his commitment to the Consultation, saying “We need to listen to people’s point of view.” He said that there would be a wide range of views expressed and that not everyone may be happy with the end result.

Finally, Professor of Ethics Michael Northcott gave an inspirational speech calling on undergraduate students to be more active in the university, stressing that a small group of passionate people had the potential to change the world. He emphasised the ethical foundations that campaigns like Fossil Free have, maintaining that student demands should not depend on logical or pragmatic outcomes, but on underlying ethical responsibilities and considerations. We don’t campaign on things because they’re feasible, said Professor Northcott, but because “it’s the right thing to do.”

Students voiced wide-ranging views on ethical investment, from issues surrounding corporate sponsorship of some university departments, to the seriousness of the carbon bubble. Robbert Bosschler, postgraduate student in Integrated Resource Management felt that “not enough is invested in green companies that actually create the jobs that we want to have. If the university invested away from fossil fuels, it would create more jobs in the green sector, and invest in our students – our product – so they can actually implement the things they learnt in their university degrees.”

The Consultation can be viewed online, and is open until March 7th for any student or staff member to submit their comments and opinions. For more information about the Consultation or about the Responsible Investment Campaign, please contact felicitymonk99@gmail.com.

University of Edinburgh launches consultation on ethical investment

12 Jan

With the 3rd largest endowment in the UK, Edinburgh University has £284 million worth of investments. The Socially Responsible Investment policy and the portfolio are currently being reviewed, and in a step that’s a first for a UK university, Edinburgh is consulting with students and staff members on the shape that this policy should take. Put simply, this is your opportunity to have a voice on the university’s huge finances!

The consultation document can be found here: http://www.ed.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.129315!/fileManager/UN%20PRI%20consultation%20paper%20January%202014.pdf

Since last year, People and Planet have been running the Responsible Investment Campaign aiming to achieve divestment from both the arms and the fossil fuel industries. In September, the university divested from Ultra Electronics on ethical grounds due to its involvement in drones manufacturing.

This event will take the form of a panel discussion with speakers including Dave Gorman, Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, who will be presenting the consultation, EUSA representatives, People and Planet will also be outlining the Ethical Investment Campaign, and Michael Northcott of the Divinity Department will speak on ethics and investment.

There will be plenty of time for Q&A and the Sustainability Department will be handing out the consultation in order to record YOUR opinion on what the University should do with its money.

Come and have your say on the university’s finances!

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/384154315064570/?fref=ts

Responsible investment: The financial case

23 Jul

One of the common arguments made against responsible, or ethical, investment is that it is not affordable, or that the priority for the university’s endowment should be creating the greatest possible financial return.

We believe the university’s endowment should be invested in line with the shared goals of the entire university: to promote the public good through encouraging innovation and increasing and widening knowledge. We also believe that this is compatible with the university making a good and consistent financial return.

In fact, we think the case is stronger than this – evidence suggests that ethical investments are also good financial investments in the long term. A UN review of 20 academic studies into the relationship between ESG factors (Environmental, Social and corporate Governance, non-financial indicators which can be used to assess company behaviour) and portfolio performance has shown a positive correlation – in other words, that on balance more ethical funds do better.

The Responsible Investment campaign is calling on the University of Edinburgh to do a number of things to invest more ethically, including to divest from arms and fossil fuels. The moral reasons why the university must divest from these are explained on this page – but there is also increasing evidence that continuing to invest in fossil fuels is a serious financial risk.

With strong scientific evidence that avoiding runaway climate change will involve leaving most proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, this means that the stock market valuations of fossil fuel companies are overvalued, as their valuations are based upon the amount of reserves they hold. Action in the future, governmental or otherwise, to counter the threat of climate change will make these reserves unuseable, and unsaleable – with financial consequences for these companies, and for investors. Some are even suggesting that this $4 trillion plus ‘carbon bubble’ will cause another financial crisis.

By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the University of Edinburgh not only helps fund their continued extraction and exploitation, with disastrous consequences for the climate, but is also in effect betting on insufficient action being taken to tackle climate change.

Moreover, with evidence that climate change will have economic consequences in addition to its social and environmental ones, unmitigated climate change is likely to harm other investments the university holds as well.

The University of Edinburgh, a 420-year old institution, should be taking a long term view – and not risking its finances, its ethics, and the environment by continuing to invest in fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel subsidies are 10 times those of renewables, figures show | Environment | guardian.co.uk

18 Jun

This article suggests that fossil fuel subsidies are 10 times those of renewables! This has to stop…more investment is needed to fund the transition to clean energy, and shouldn’t be put into unsustainable fossil fuels that are destroying our climate. We’re calling on universities to do their part in this as well, shifting funds out of oil and natural gas and in the process, avoiding the risk of being financially burnt when the carbon bubble crashes.

Our response to Green League results: ‘Good, but not enough’.

11 Jun

‘A good start, but not enough’: students respond to the University of Edinburgh’s Green League scores for ethical investment.

Despite the university’s positive result today in the Green League’s (run by People and Planet in conjuction with the Guardian) ethical investment section, the ‘Responsible Investment Campaign’ ran by students at the university says it is high time for the university’s £230+ million endowment fund to shed investments it holds in fossil fuel companies and a drones manufacturer.

The university received 3 out of 3 – full marks – on ethical investment criteria for having a public Socially Responsible Investment policy. But Nick Dowson, part of People and Planet Edinburgh University, the group that launched the campaign,says: “We are pleased that the university has made some efforts to improve its policy on Socially Responsible Investment, and that it has recently signed up to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment. But this is not enough: how can it pride itself on its enviromental efforts when it continues to invest in fossil fuels – including companies like Shell with poor human rights records – the burning of which is the major cause of climate change?”

“We also discovered that they hold shares in Ultra Electronics Holdings, who manufacture components for the US predator drones which are being used to terrorise populations – in contravention of international law – in Pakistan. We have no reason to believe that the investment committee did this knowingly, but that just goes to show how important it is to have a transparent and accountable investment committee.”

The group are calling for divestment from arms and fossil fuels as well as the creation of a committee to hold the university’s investments accountable and provision for an elected student to sit on the university’s investment committee. In addition, the students are calling for some of the university’s funds to be managed by an ethical fund manager, and for ‘positive investment’: taking some of the university’s investments out of stocks and shares and putting it into improving energy efficiency on campus, bringing a direct environmental and financial return.

Kirsty Haigh, Vice President of Services at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) says “The goals of this campaign were agreed democratically by students at a student council meeting in February. As a sabbatical officer I hope to be able to work with the university to achieve these aims and ensure the university is a world leader in investing responsibly. Its endowment fund is the largest in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge and it should be using this for the benefit of students and the wider public: funding scholarships, and also investing in ways that don’t harm our future, not fuelling conflicts and climate change.”

The call for divestment from fossil fuels began in the US with 350.org and the enviromentalist Bill McKibben, on the basis of evidence that we must leave 80% of current proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change . People and Planet are planning to launch the campaign in the UK this autumn, and Bill McKibben will be speaking in Edinburgh at the end of November.

Nick Dowson says “As students, we want this endowment to be invested in a way which does not jeopardise our future. Not only is there a clear moral and enviromental case for this divestment, but reports of a ‘carbon bubble’, with current oil and gas reserves overvalued, suggest that fossil fuel investments are an unacceptable risk to long-term investors such as universities and pension funds”.

For more information please contact us at: responsibleinvestment[AT]riseup.net

EDIT 17th June: In fact it seems that the University of Edinburgh received 3 points out of 3 for ethical investment. Apologies for this factual error, see its’ Green League results here.

Notes to Editors

1. People & Planet’s Green League is the only comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance. It is compiled annually by the UK’s largest student campaigning network, People & Planet. The full results of this years green league are available here: http://peopleandplanet.org/greenleague.

2. Information about companies that the University of Edinburgh holds investments in can be found here: https://investethically.wordpress.com/ethical-investment-faqs/current-investments/

3. Information about the financial case for divesting from fossil fuels can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis

4.The Responsible Investment Campaign was launched in January and more information about the campaign can be found on the campaign website: https://investethically.wordpress.com/

5. Information about the Fossil Free campaign in the UK is available here:http://fossilfree.org.uk/

6. Environmentalist Bill McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone magazine explains the facts behind the call for responsible investment: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

7. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere recently reached 400 parts per million: here as an article about the implications of that for the climate: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_10-5-2013-16-39-30

8. Please see the appendix for the full Green League results for the University of Edinburgh in 2013. They can also be found online here: http://peopleandplanet.org/green-league-2012/tables?ggl12profile=8703&test=dea681. This is the first year that there has been a section rating universities’ efforts on ethical investment.