Online library details UK universities’ responsible investment policies

With more than half of UK universities now committed to responsible investment, the new database both holds them to account and offers an opportunity to learn from best practice

UK universities’ responsible investment policies can now all be scrutinised in a single, publicly accessible location.

An online library detailing the institutions’ commitments has been established by SOS-UK and ShareAction, a non-profit organisation seeking to build an ethically-driven global investment sector.

SOS-UK, meanwhile, is a charity founded by the NUS in 2019 as part of its Invest for Change campaign.

“Students want to see their universities taking their concerns around environmental and social justice seriously, in their policy and practice,” said NUS president, Larissa Kennedy.

“[The online library] is great and allows students to quickly look up responsible investment policies and work with their universities to develop and improve these in line with values.”

Its founders hope that the new resource will help institutions learn from best practice in developing investment policies that have a measurable, beneficial impact.

This might mean directly investing in something tangible – renewable energy infrastructure, say, or social housing projects – or may require potential investees to undertake better corporate practice in such areas as environmental sustainability or social justice.

From the archive: Universities launch sustainable investment network

“This resource is so valuable in supporting institutions to develop their policies,” said Professor Joy Carter, vice-chancellor at the University of Winchester.

“It allows us to learn from our peers and drive forward the important work around responsible investment as a sector.”

Universities’ investments have been under intensifying scrutiny for the last decade or so, likely as a corollary of the sharp rise in fees introduced in 2012. As their own financial input has grown, so students have increasingly demanded to know – and have a say in – where their money is going.

By the beginning of 2020, more than half of UK universities had publicly committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

Many more followed throughout the year. In May, for example, we reported on how the University of Manchester vowed to decarbonise its investment portfolio by 2022, while in November Dundee University committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies by 2025.

“We have a duty to play our part in responding to the climate emergency, and there need to be actions as well as aspirations,” said the latter’s vice-chancellor, Professor David Maguire.

“We have listened to the staff and student voice on this issue, and they have rightly pressed us to take clear and timely action.”

Last week [9 February] the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine became the 85th university in the UK to lay out a divestment commitment.

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