The 5 things you need to know about divestment:
1. What is fossil fuel divestment?
Divestment is basically the opposite of investment. When someone divests, they pull their money (stocks, bonds, etc.) from corporations or businesses as a sign that they no longer support that entity. This political and social tactic has been in use for much of the past century, most notably gaining popularity during divestment from South African apartheid.
We will surpass the manageable global warming temperature threshold within 15 years if we do not take immediate action to drastically reduce carbon emissions (1). Fossil fuel companies contribute most egregiously to this terrifying reality (2). To address this issue, an international campaign is urging cities, schools, religious institutions, and other organizations around the world to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel extraction companies as listed by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (3). Santa Clara University should be next, as fossil fuel divestment not only signals that an institution will not ethically support the industry, but also directly impacts fossil fuel corporations’ funds.
Therefore, we ask the University to:
- Immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel extraction companies.
- Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.
2. Who has divested already?
Along with various religious groups, cities, foundations and governmental institutions, several universities and colleges have already committed to divestment. Locally, those include Foothill-De Anza Community College, San Francisco State University, Peralta Community College District, Stanford University (from coal), Santa Clara Valley Water District and, most recently, Chico State University. Many, if not most, colleges around the country are now moving forward with their own divestment campaigns.
3. Why divest at Santa Clara?
Divestment is proven to be a financially viable decision. A recent study by Aperio Group reveals that excluding the top 200 fossil fuel companies from an indexed portfolio would increase theoretical return risk by a mere 0.003% (4). Furthermore, financial experts have reported that divestment is a wise, sustainable, and optimally lucrative choice for all businesses wishing to increase profits in the long term, due to the inflated business models of fossil fuel companies (5). As for alternative investments, Forbes has reported high financial gains for investors in solar, wind, and water (6). Investments in the fossil fuel industry may yield temporary benefits, but SCU can secure long-term financial stability with socially responsible investments in the growing field of renewable energy. Fossil fuel divestment is the right decision both financially and ethically.
Santa Clara University pledges in its mission statement to “build a more humane, just, and sustainable world” (7). But such a world is not ensured if fossil fuel companies are allowed to recklessly continue their current practices unchecked. By divesting, SCU can continue its commendable efforts against environmental injustices worldwide, setting a precedent for other universities to follow. SCU has historically advocated against such environmental injustices because they “[contradict] our ethical guidelines for investment,”as noted by Father Engh regarding the University’s 2009 decision to divest from Massey Energy (8). Joining the current divestment movement would also further the University’s President’s Climate Commitment (9) goal to become carbon neutral by 2015, and further promote the University’s culture of justice.
Although the world’s wealthiest countries produce the vast majority of carbon emissions globally, the unsettling reality is that the poorest countries are the least equipped to deal with the effects of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “even under the most conservative scenario, sea level will be about 40 cm higher than today by the end of 21st century,” which will “increase the annual number of people flooded in coastal populations from 13 million to 94 million,” mostly in already impoverished South and East Asian countries (10). Globally, climate change introduces the threat of food shortages, risks to households in low-elevation areas, spread of diseases, and increasing intensity and frequency of tropical storms – all tragedies that will affect the world’s poor disproportionately (11). Jesuit values urge us as educated and empathetic individuals to take action against this profound injustice that has already begun to afflict the world’s most vulnerable.
As a leading Jesuit university, SCU strives to instill in the minds and hearts of its students the values of competence, conscience, and compassion. These Jesuit values, if genuinely practiced, compel us as globally minded citizens and engaged members of the SCU community to demand that our university becomes a leader in the fight against climate change, rather than continuing to contribute to the most formidable issue our world has ever known. For us to truly embody the “three C’s,” we feel it is imperative that our University take a definitive stand against this industry that blindly disregards the well being of our world’s most vulnerable communities, while threatening the viability of a livable future for all.
4. What’s the status of the SCU campaign?
Founded in the Fall of 2013, Fossil Free SCU is making significant strides. We have established a strong presence on campus through media campaigns, hosting a panel on the ethics of divestment in relation to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, and via support from the Jesuit community, alumni, faculty, staff, and most importantly, students.
5. How can I help?
We are asking SCU to show support through signing a petition, which will be sent to President Engh, CIO John Kerrigan, and the SCU Board of Trustees. With support in numbers from students, alumni, faculty, and staff, this petition should show that we are serious about divestment.
Please see the “Petition” sidebar to the right to choose the petition specific to you (either Students & Friends of Fossil Free SCU, Alumni, Faculty, or Staff)
Most critically to the success of our petition, however, is spreading the word far and wide. Show this site to everyone you know! With greater reach comes more support!!
Divestment from these top 200 companies is a crucial step in curbing irreversible damage to our planet, and showing through action, rather than through words alone, that Santa Clara University does not support the morals and practices of these corporations. By divesting, SCU will create an avenue for long term financial stability, remain true to its core values, and continue to be a leader among Jesuit universities in sustainable action and social justice.
(3)Unburnable Carbon, The Carbon Tracker Initiative
(5) Coburn, Jim, and Ryan Salmon. “Sustainable Extraction? An Analysis of SEC Disclosure by Major Oil & Gas Companies on Climate Risk & Deepwater Drilling Risk.” Ceres. Aug 2012. Web.
(8) State of the University 2009 https://www.scu.edu/president/publiccommentary/state2009.cfm
(9) The President’s Climate Commitment is a national agreement by University Presidents to eliminate the campuses’ net greenhouse gas emissions by a self-determined date\deadline.