Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Institutional Divestment


 (from www.endowmentethics.org
Responsible investment allows institutions like colleges and universities to ensure that their investments are aligned with their values. Given that many schools have made commitments to diversity, the environment, their workers and local communities, it logically follows that they would want these commitments reflected in their investment policies. The status quo: blindly investing in companies that destroy the environment, mistreat their workers, build private prisons, or discriminate against employees is unacceptable—and luckily, responsible investment provides a way for schools to continue to earn the money they need, without sacrificing campus values in the process.
Colleges and universities have many opportunities to align their investments with their mission statements. These include:
  • Engaging in active ownership, also known as shareholder advocacy, by taking a stance on the social and environmental impact of corporations without divesting;
  • making proactive investments in companies or projects that align with the institution’s mission, such as green energy or low-income housing;  and
  • screening out or divesting from particular investments, such as in tobacco or conflict regions, where investments would support activities against the school’s values.
Responsible investment benefits everyone: schools continue to make the financial returns needed to fund quality education, alumni feel good that their donations are being managed in line with their values, and students know their education has not been funded on anyone else’s back. Given the tremendous power of money, and the fact that over $400 billion is managed by colleges and universities, responsible investment is one of the highest-impact ways schools can support society—and its relatively easy to implement.
How Does this Relate to Fracking?

FACT: The use of hydraulic fracturing is not enabled by poor and working class people paying their gas bills or driving their cars. Like apartheid in South Africa, it’s fueled by a Wall Street frenzy, coupled with government inaction, that has lured billions of dollars of investment money into building new pipelines, rigs, and facilities to extract and process Marcellus shale gas for export. In fact, the Marcellus industry is not a commodities market, it is a manufacturing market (if you know the difference). Their profits aren't from selling the gas, which is at its lowest price in decades, it's from inflated stocks meant for getting the gas and if there's anything we know about stock market bubbles, it's that they pop.

By publicly organizing members of your institutions to support divestment, you can have a larger financial impact on the frackers than just simply not paying your gas bill. There are three primary ways your church, union, business, camp, college, or university can divest from the Marcellus Shale gas industry.

The first, is to simply say NO to leasing your organizations’ land. The second is to divest pension, general fund, and endowment money from the industry. I recommend that the first targets be the members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. A list of the members are here: http://marcelluscoalition.org/about/full-members/

This is commonly known as Socially Responsible Investing. The third is to use your institutions’ shareholder rights to vote on proxy and acquisition votes at shareholder meetings. For example, this May, Chevron shareholders will vote yes or no on Chevron’s acquisition of Atlas Energy, one of the biggest frackers in Pennsylvania. That’s a perfect opportunity for you to vote NO.

Responsible Endowment Coalition - for students
641 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 300
New York, NY 10011
Email: Info@endowmentethics.org
Phone: 215.564.2201

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility - for faith-based organizations
Suite 1842
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
phone: 212-870-2295
fax: 212-870-2023
e-mail: info@iccr.org

Social Investment Forum - for Socially Responsible Investing information
910 17th St NW Suite 1000,
Washington, DC 20006 

Trillium Assets Management
711 Atlantic Ave
Boston, MA 02111-2809
Fax: 617-482-6179

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