Students celebrate their campaign successes and the recent approval of a new ‘Socially Responsible Investment Policy’.
Yesterday (12 April), following recommendation from the University’s Finance and Investments Committee, The University of Sussex Council approved a new Socially Responsible Investment policy. This new policy includes a list of areas that investment managers should consider when making investments. This includes: ‘protection of the global environment, its climate and its biodiversity including the reduction and future elimination of fossil fuel exploration and production’.
The meeting was attended by a number of senior members of the University, including John Duffy, Registrar, Allan Spencer, Director of Finance and the Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing.
Since the University of Glasgow became the first European institution to divest from fossil fuels in October 2014, the student divestment movement in higher education has grown apace. As a result of a petition calling for an ethical investment policy was delivered by Fossil Free Sussex to the Registrar and Secretary, John Duffy, in March 2015, the University sub-committee on Finance and Investment have taken the time to consider a new ethical investment policy that includes restrictions on future investments in fossil fuel companies.
Given the gravity of climate change, it is clear that investments in the fossil fuel industry hamper the fight toward a sustainable and ethical future and jeopardise the university's hard-earned reputation for progressive values-driven research and action.
Since the beginning of the academic year, Fossil Free Sussex have gathered hundreds of signatures in an Open Letter to the University, including Caroline Lucas and Amelia Womack, in the run-up to the UN Climate Change talks, the group reached over half a million people via a twitter thunderclap on the COP21 Day of Action, and on the day of the working group's third meeting students staged a ‘die-in’, simulating the death of fossil fuels.
The campaign group believes that in creating a new ethical investment policy, the University is taking the right steps to ensure that the University of Sussex remains a progressive institute and places itself in the vanguard of social change. We now hope that this momentum of change continues.
Jack Millar PhD Student and Fossil Free Sussex campaign member said:
We are delighted that the continuous hard work of all the Fossil Free Sussex campaign members has led to tangible action by the University, and we thank the working group members for the time they’ve taken to consider our arguments. By pledging to take a critical look at its carbon investments, Sussex has begun to demonstrate that it’s willing to be at the forefront of progressive social change. However, this alone will not suffice if Sussex is to show it is serious about its moral duty. It has not divested yet. We will ensure that the University is continuously assessing its options for moving towards a carbon-free endowment fund, and that it will do so at the earliest possible opportunity. Until that happens, we have not achieved our overall campaign aim.
This move marks the continuous momentum of a movement for 'Fossil Free' universities, spearheaded by students and the student network, People & Planet, calling on the higher education sector to sever ties with the fossil fuel industry.
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