Positive step forward for ethical investments

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On Thursday Week 2, Lancaster University’s Ethical Investment Group (LUEIG) held an open meeting to discuss their progress after the Finances and General Purposes Committee pledged to the development of an Ethical Investment Policy on Friday Week 7 of Lent term.

In a statement given to SCAN, President Laura Clayson said: “Finance and General Purposes Committee have committed to the development of an Ethical Investment Policy (subject to official ratification from University Council). The next stage after this will be to send around a survey to all in the institution to ascertain what different stakeholder’s desire from this policy, i.e. what we perceive as ethical and what we do not. This will be created in collaboration with students working on this campaign. We are taking this as a massive win, so thank you to everyone for all your support! We will keep you all updated about where you can fill this survey in smile.”

This is a positive step forward for the group who have been campaigning for the divestment from unethical investments and the proposal to establish an ethical investment policy for the last academic year, as part of a wider nationwide initiative. Speaking on the result of the meeting, LUEIG said: “This is a great result and a real success for the group, after a year of hard work! There does, however, need to be sustained pressure to ensure that the campaign does not get lost in bureaucratic structures and have its demands watered down.”

The meeting held in Week 2 invited students and staff to hear about the achievements of Lancaster’s University Ethical Investments campaign so far, and to discuss ways of supporting the campaign going forward. Speaking to SCAN, LUEIG said “The meeting will update attendees on our progress so far this term, and consider how students, staff and local residents can support us. It would be great if there was a sister campaign calling for the city council to divest from fossil fuels!

We will also consider the university’s general strategy in terms of sustainability and the environment and hopefully come up with some ideas as to how we can embed principles of sustainability at the core of the university’s operations.”

Currently, around 14% of the University’s investments are in fossil fuels and nearly 4% of investments are in the arms trade. A report published in October 2013 entitled ‘Knowledge and Power: Fossil Fuel Universities Published by People & Planet’ showed that Lancaster University are receiving £4,788,745 from Shell, BP and Exxon research in projects. The first, entitled ‘UK Centre for Doctoral Training in Statistics and Operational Research, Lancaster University (LUSTOR)’ receives £4,515,764 funding, and the second, the ‘Locally stationary Energy Time Series (LETS)’ project receives £272,981.

In response to these findings, LUIEG told SCAN: “Whilst it is shocking at some level, given Shell’s notorious record of environmental degradation and human rights abuse, it is sadly not surprising.” In the UK, Shell, BP and Exxon fund 56.7 million pounds of research at higher education institutions and LUEIG explained how Lancaster’s relationship with these companies is part of a much wider problem.

In terms of the impact this research will have on their campaign LUEIG said “It will definitely have an impact… whether a benefit or not remains to be seen! It helps explain why there may be opposition to divesting from fossil fuel companies due to entrenched research links with these very same companies. However, it also makes the reasons for opposition rather more transparent, which is useful in some ways, as we have a greater understanding of the context behind opposition to our campaign.”

LUEIG said that their survey will “hopefully be disseminated this term” along with a leaflet of information. At the time SCAN went to print, the open meeting had not taken place.

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