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Divestment from fossil fuels

University commits to change in investment policy

Published on: 24 May 2016

Newcastle University’s governing Council has agreed to take steps to ensure the organisation’s investments better reflect its values and ethos going forward.

Responding to calls from Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) and representations from students involved in the Fossil Free movement, members pledged to embed Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations into its investment strategy.

The Council’s decision will see Newcastle University procuring only those fund managers that are signed up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).

It will also give preference to investment managers who preferentially invest in progressive companies that are working towards low carbon solutions and who will provide the University with reports on the carbon foot-print of companies within its portfolio.

As a consequence of this strategy, the University will aim to divest from thermal coal and oil/tar sand companies and other non-progressive oil and gas companies within five years.

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The decision follows a review of all aspects of the University’s carbon-related activities, from the energy efficiency of its campus, to the work of its Sustainability Research Institute.

The review was conducted by an advisory panel involving academic experts and the Students’ Union who concluded that the University’s current investment strategy was not consistent with its overall sustainability objectives.

Mark I’Anson, chair of Newcastle University’s Council, said:

“Newcastle University is committed to furthering environmental sustainability and we have a strong track-record in this regard.

"Not only is it a main focus for our research through our internationally leading Institute for Sustainability, but as an organisation, we continue to score highly in the influential ‘People and Planet’ Green League table. So it is right that our investment decisions are consistent with these values.

“We took the concerns raised by our student body very seriously and I am grateful to the Carbon Advisory Group for its considered approach to this complex issue. It is hoped that today’s decision will allow the University to address ESG considerations across the University’s investment portfolio, and reduce the University’s exposure to investments linked to explicit environmental damage.”

Focus on Sustainability

Newcastle University currently has £60m of endowment funds managed by a number of external fund managers.

Dominic Fearon, NUSU president and member of the Carbon Advisory group, explains:

"Climate change is one of the key issues facing us globally and last year was the hottest in recorded history.

"As students we can be incredibly proud that our university is making the most progressive divestment commitment of any UK university and contributing to a more sustainable future.

"Hopefully this will inspire other universities and organisations to divest from companies profiting from unethical practices.”

Focussing on sustainability research in response to both local and global issues, a significant part of Newcastle’s work is organised into three research challenge themes; ageing, sustainability and social renewal.

In sustainability, work includes the recent announcement of a £20m EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration which will be key to driving forward the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. The Centre will be based at Science Central, a £250m exemplar of urban sustainability and a ‘living laboratory’ where the University will trial innovative urban technologies.


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