Examining socially responsible and green investment options

Student-led initiative on divestment sparks collaborative campus approach

Following months of campus consultations and an open examination of “divestment,” The University of Winnipeg Board of Regents this evening voted to adopt a collaborative approach to the issue. It noted that UWinnipeg is updating its Sustainability Policy and Institutional Sustainability Strategy to ensure that the institution continues to show climate leadership. It requested that UWinnipeg’s Foundation and Pension Trustees, as affiliated entities, examine investment practices with the potential creation of:

1) A responsible investment policy that applies Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria; and

2) A separate fund option that is 100% fossil fuel free and geared towards “green” innovation.

Divestment refers to the removal of stocks, bonds, and investment funds from companies involved in extracting fossil fuels. No Canadian university has fully divested from fossil fuels although a number are establishing a separate fund that applies Environmental, Social and Governance screens (eg: Trent, Dalhousie, University of British Columbia, McGill, Guelph, Thompson Rivers).

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association sparked the divestment dialogue on campus and has been an active partner in facilitating campus consultations.

BACKGROUND

The University of Winnipeg’s Board of Regents adopted the University’s Campus Sustainability Policy and sustainability management framework in 2006. Since then, UWinnipeg has become a sustainability leader, receiving several sustainability awards.  Most notably, we have surpassed our targets in reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared to 1990 levels, exceeding Canada’s current GHG commitments. In 2016-2017, the Sustainability Policy and Institutional Sustainability Strategy is being reviewed and updated to ensure that UWinnipeg continues to be a sustainability leader, shows climate leadership, and takes action that reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and supports international climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement, which Canada has signed.

The subject of fossil fuel divestment has been raised primarily by students and faculty at campuses across Canada. In 2014, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which represents 500,000 students across Canada including The University of Winnipeg, passed a resolution endorsing fossil fuel divestment. Specific divestment at UWinnipeg was raised by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.

Through the winter of 2016, UWinnipeg engaged in a campus-wide conversation about fossil fuel divestment.  This conversation invited students, faculty, staff, Board members, and members of our wider community to consider the issue of fossil fuel divestment from a variety of perspectives. The consultation included three public events with expert panelists, a website, an online feedback form, and a donor survey. The UWinnipeg approach was inclusive and offered a forum for nuanced conversation about this complex issue.

A summary of these consultations entitled “What We Heard” was posted on our website in April 2016.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT

Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E: d.poulin@uwinnipeg.ca

 

 

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