Ethical Investment Policy Open Meeting Minutes 20/02/14

 

Hey all,

There was a meeting last week on Lancaster Universities investment portfolio, specifically its arm long list of tax dodgers, arms dealers, climate polluters, human rights abusers and other such delightful captains of industry, and what the hell members of the university community can do about being financially connected to these deeply unpleasant entities. Turns out you can do quite a lot. The meeting was well attended and included people from a wide variety of different groups. Below are the minutes from this meeting including the demands of the campaign and some initial ideas for campaigning. Please spread this far and wide! Also, massive kudos to the organisers of the meeting, who did an amazing job getting so many people together and pushing the campaign forward in spite of being involved in so many other things at the same time.   WT

 

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Ethical Investment Policy Open Meeting Minutes

 

Thursday 20th February 2014, 6pm

Management School LT 3

In attendance:

  26 people students (full list of names on the original minutes)

 

Discussed

  • Emily Winter and Laura Clayson briefly explained how Edinburgh University successfully introduced an investment policy at their university, and described how they had achieved this
  • They also described the current investments that Lancaster University have that may be considered unethical

ORIGINAL Proposed Demands

  1. Commitment to divestment from fossil fuels and the arms trade
  2. Elected student representative on the investment committee
  3. Creation of a committee where investments can be scrutinised
  4. 25% of funds in an ethical fund manager
  5. Positive investment in renewables; energy efficiency; university’s own activities like mental health services

 

Questions and Queries

  • Who decides the investments that the university will make? Criteria?
    • Response: There will be an investment committee and some will have to be decided on a case to case basis
    • By divesting from the arms trade, will this be unfair to students as companies like BAE may be a future career choice?
      • Response: Students can choose whether they want to attend arms trade stalls at careers fairs, or apply for jobs within that sector. Students do not get to choose where the fees that they pay towards the university are invested; they do not make an active choice to invest in BAE.
      • Will this divestment affect placements rooted in certain companies?
        • Response: Again, the choice is not removed from the students, it is about the ethical choice of all students and where the money that they pay the university should be invested.
        • Rio Tinto mining group (which Lancaster University invests in) accused of human rights violations. As they are not included in current demands, where would the line be drawn?
          • Response: An initial plan of action is needed before other investments can be looked into, as a secondary response as part of the investment committee.
          • Is there scope to divest from tobacco companies, as we are one of the only, if not the only, university that currently invests in this?
            • Response: In the longer run, but fossil fuels and the arms trade are the priorities, as they take up a much larger percentage of current university investment
            • What if some students smoke or support an industry that we want to divest from?
              • Response: Divesting from arms trade companies does not mean that students cannot apply for jobs with them, in the same way that divesting from fossil fuels does not mean that all students and staff must stop driving cars. The tobacco company that we are currently invested in was also found guilty of tobacco farmer abuse and forced child labour.

 

Proposed Amendments to Demands

  • 1. Divestment from fossil fuels and the arms trade
    • Short term vs long term demands – primary demands to divest from fossil fuels and the arms trade, with secondary demands to further look into other unethical companies.
    • Is it better to hold at least one share in ‘unethical’ companies, so we can attend shareholders meetings and effect change?
    • Word the policy correctly to show that our policy is progressive and sustainable
  • 2. Student representative on the Investment Committee
    • Elected member of the student body; existing or new position Cross Campus Officer
  • 3. A student scrutiny committee for the university investments
    • Different members to focus on different ethical issues e.g. Human rights; animal testing; the environment
    • Focus on details; can decide if unethical on a case by case basis – the company could be either unethical by being part of an unethical industry, or by having unethical practices
  • 4. and 5. to combine
    • Positive investment in ethical investments with our current fund managers

Problems Arising

  • Timescale – How long will it take to divest from these companies? Is it worth setting a deadline for divestment and the fulfilling of demands
  • How to publicise our aims and gain support from the student body
    • SCAN; Petition (online and in Alex Square); Flashmob

Action Points

  • Article with link to an online petition
  • Week 10 Alexandra Square Petition (During Go Green Week)
  • Letter to Heads of Department

 

NEW PROPOSED DEMANDS

  1. Commitment to divestment from fossil fuels and the arms trade 
  2. Elected Cross-Campus Officer on the investment committee 
  3. Creation of a committee where investments can be scrutinised, and for these investments to be made public/transparent so that these decisions can be made from an informed perspective
  4.  At least 25% of investments in renewables; energy efficiency; and the university’s own activities like mental health services
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