The University will divest from public securities of fossil fuel companies within five years and existing private investments within 10 years
(WASHINGTON – Feb. 6, 2020) Georgetown University’s board of directors today adopted a policy on impact investments and fossil fuels divestment that is part of the university’s broad commitment to sustainability. Under the new policy, the university will continue to make investments that target a market rate of return in renewable energy, energy efficiency and related areas while freezing new endowment investments in companies or funds whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels. Georgetown will divest from public securities of fossil fuel companies within the next five years and divest from existing private investments in those companies over the next 10 years. Divestments will take place on a timeline that is both financially responsible and expeditious, and the university retains flexibility with respect to commingled investment funds as needed.
“Divestment allows us to divert more capital to fund development of renewable energy projects that will play a vital role in the transition away from fossil fuels – part of the long-term solution required to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change,” said Michael Barry, Georgetown’s chief investment officer. “Our endowment has for a number of years profitably invested in the development of renewable power assets and energy efficiency companies, and we are continuing to search for new opportunities, but climate change, in addition to threatening our planet, is increasing the risk of investing in oil and gas companies, as we expect a more volatile range of financial outcomes. We will continue to evaluate the efforts of these companies, and be hopeful that many will move further toward contributing to a sustainable future.”
The board acted today on a recommendation from the university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR), which includes faculty, students and staff and reviews and considers proposals from the Georgetown community on socially responsible investment.
Recent efforts in support of sustainability include the creation of a multi-phased strategic plan that explores all the ways in which Georgetown can honor the pope’s encyclical, such as reducing its carbon footprint, supporting education, research efforts and other measures.
“Animated by our Catholic and Jesuit identity, our University has sought to strengthen opportunities for our community to contribute to a more sustainable future by fostering dialogue, research, education, and the engagement of all members of our community,” says Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “This decision by our board of directors advances the deep commitment we have to sustainability and our efforts to respond to urgent global environmental challenges.”
The action today by the board is the result of a multi-year engagement within the Georgetown community that included students, faculty and staff. Such engagement included the long-term sustained efforts of the student-run GU Fossil Free (GUFF), which submitted a number of proposals to the university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR). As with prior proposals by GUFF, this most recent recommendation was thoroughly evaluated by CISR over the course of the last year. Incorporating input from GUFF and other members of the community, CISR unanimously recommended the current divestment proposal to the board.
“This is a major step forward, but also one of many in a comprehensive and complex set of commitments that Georgetown is making to sustainability and to the environment more broadly,” said Peter Marra, director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI). “It’s an exciting time to be on the Georgetown campus and for the broader university community as we do what’s necessary to ensure a healthy environment and a sustainable future for generations to come.”
Georgetown has demonstrated its commitment to socially responsible investing in recent years through several actions. In 2015, the board of directors approved a proposal to discontinue direct investments of endowment funds in companies whose principal business is mining coal for use in energy production. The board adopted a Socially Responsible Investing Policy in 2017. This policy outlines the university’s approach to socially responsible investing and demonstrates its intention to integrate its commitment to social justice, protection of human life and dignity, stewardship for the planet and promotion of the common good into its investment management practices. In 2018, the board of directors’ Committee on Finance and Administration supported a recommendation to use reasonable efforts to avoid investments in companies whose principal business is the extraction of bituminous sands or “tar sands.”
Joining a group of leading universities across the country in 2017, the university reaffirmed its commitment in support of the Paris Agreement on climate change continuing its work toward slowing the rise in the global average temperature and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
“As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we believe caring for our environment is one of the most urgent moral and practical concerns of our time,” President John J. DeGioia said nearly three years ago. “In reaffirming this commitment, we seek to strengthen our ongoing efforts to bring the intellectual and spiritual resources of our community to bear on the important work of being ever more sustainable as a university and contributing to our environment in beneficial and concrete ways.”
For more information, visit georgetown.edu/news/fossil-fuels-divestment-continues-georgetown-commitment-to-sustainability.
About Georgetown University:
Established in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States. Located in Washington DC, Doha, Qatar, and around the world, Georgetown University is a leading academic and research institution, offering a unique educational experience that prepares the next generation of global citizens to lead and make a difference in the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit Georgetown.edu or connect with Georgetown on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram.