Ethical Investment Advisory Committee Promotes Sustainable Spending

The Ethical Investment Advisory Committee (EIAC) is encouraging sustainability by changing the way the University invests money. The group is comprised of University faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff members, whose goal is to align the University’s values and investment policies with environmental sustainability.

The initiative started in 2017, when a group of undergraduate students from student social justice organization Students for a Democratic Society, and sustainability awareness group Grassroots worked together to create a petition asking the University to divest from fossil fuels- meaning that the University would no longer invest its endowment in stocks from fossil fuel extraction companies. This position gained support from the undergraduate Student’s Association Government, and was then endorsed by the Graduate Student Association. The resolution was then presented to the Faculty Senate.

The Faculty Senate approved the forming of the EIAC. Its chairman subsequently presented a resolution to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, in September 2017, seeking its support. The Investment Committee approved this resolution.

The EIAC meets regularly to discuss ethical investment matters. In May 2018 the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees adopted the committee’s proposed revisions to the University’s Investment Policy to include a statement of ethical investing.   This policy lets investors know what the University’s values are, and, according to the EIAC website, holds “(asset) managers accountable to uphold norms of corporate social responsibility (CRS).” The EIAC made revisions to the existing CSR Policy to include the core values of “freedom of expression, equality of persons, respect for cultural diversity, dissemination of knowledge in the public interest, fair labor standards, human rights, democratic governance and environmental sustainability.” According to undergraduate committee member Henry Scharfe (Class of 2019), a commitment to “dissemination of knowledge in the public interest,” implies that the University should no longer invest in companies that spread scientific misinformation about the climate.

The CSR Policy revisions were passed by the Investment Committee. But the EIAC isn’t done yet. Last semester they held two town hall meetings for faculty, staff, and students to listen to concerns about ethical investment. One was the issue of coal—while the University does not invest in the coal industry, town hall attendants wanted to make sure that it stays this way, as burning coal to generate energy is environmentally unsustainable. The EIAC is currently considering making this a larger resolution, and evaluating other possible next steps as well. The EIAC also maintains a website describing its activities, and includes minutes of its meetings.

EIAC Chair Professor Randall Stone says of the formation of the EIAC is a “good example of how much students can accomplish on campus when they express deep concerns.” Those interested in giving feedback or asking questions can attend their next open meeting on Monday, March 18 at 3:30, or email inquiry_eiac@ur.rochester.edu.

 

Written by Isabel Lieberman, Class of 2021.

 

 

 

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