Fossil Fuel Investment Policies
Nov. 28, 2018
As you know, the issue of divestment from the fossil fuel industry has long weighed on the collective consciousness of the Brandeis community.
After several months of thoughtful discussion and careful deliberation, the Board of Trustees has adopted a set of policies related to fossil fuels.
In their review of this complex issue, the trustees had to weigh, on the one hand, the legitimate climate-related concerns of many members of the Brandeis community and, on the other, their serious fiduciary responsibility to protect the health of the endowment and the university. This is a difficult balance to strike, and the board worked diligently to understand and consider each component of the issue.
The board has now approved the following comprehensive set of policies:
The university will make no direct investments of endowment funds in public or private companies or partnerships whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation.
Our existing investments in fossil fuel private limited partnerships (i.e., private limited partnership funds that make investments, the focus of which is deriving profit from the exploration and production of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas), which represent approximately 5 percent of our endowment, will run off in accordance with the funds’ typical life cycles. The university will suspend for a period of three years any new investments in such partnerships.
The Investment Office and the board’s Investment Committee will increase their focus on finding investments, consistent with their target risk and return standards, in renewable energy sources and technologies focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other causes of climate change. We will not divest from commingled funds that contain fossil fuel investments, because to do so would be imprudent and place the financial well-being of our endowment in jeopardy, and in particular funding that provides a significant amount of support to student financial aid and endowed professorships. In addition, the Investment Office will inform our current and future investment managers of our policy regarding climate change and our investment strategies.
The board affirms its support of the university’s commitment to achieving the goal of a 15 percent reduction in emissions by 2020, as recommended in the 2016 Climate Action Plan. Since 2015, we have already been able to reduce our emissions by 12.6 percent. As I have recommended, I will convene a new task force in the next academic year to establish additional goals for further reductions in emissions beyond the 2020 target, plus other ways in which the institution can reduce its carbon footprint. We must acknowledge that achieving these additional goals will require changes in our collective and personal behaviors. At least in part, these goals will be aided by our improvement of the campus infrastructure in the medium to long term through improvements with an eye toward energy efficiency and conservation.
As Provost Lisa Lynch and I have recommended, the Office of the Provost will prioritize support for Brandeis faculty and researchers working on climate change and related issues through the provost research fund.
We will review these actions in three years to evaluate their impact and consider future action.
Separately, the board is committed to reviewing and updating the university’s Statement on Socially Responsible Investing to reflect best practices.
I want to thank the dedicated students, faculty, and staff who have been thoughtful contributors to the debate surrounding this issue since well before I arrived at Brandeis. I also want to extend my appreciation to our Board of Trustees for its serious, sustained engagement with this important issue.