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Edinburgh University revises ethical investment policy following push from students

ByParaskevi Peglidou

Feb 15, 2016

The University of Edinburgh has revised its Ethical Investment Policy following student campaigns by People and Planet Edinburgh and Edinburgh University Student’s Association (EUSA) Vice President Services Urte Macikene.

The updated policy carries more stringent procedures for fossil fuel investments, including a transfer of current investments into a fund for closer ethical scrutiny and a new threshold has been established to eliminate companies with more than a 20 per cent involvement in the arms trade.  The changes also included planned expansions into “social impact investing” and provisions to allow for increased student participation in investment decisions.

In a press release announcing the decision, the university characterised its decision as responsible and in line with its values and mission.

“The University’s commitment to responsible investment is tangible and underpins our stated values and our mission,” it said. “Significant progress has been made to date and work continues to ensure that the informed decisions taken by the University Court are quickly and effectively implemented.”

Pushing the University to divest from arms and fossil fuels was one of the key promises that Urte Macikene, EUSA’s Vice President for Services made in her manifesto.

Speaking to The Student, Macikene said that throughout this year she has been working towards ethical investment, keeping the issue on the top of her agenda.

“Student campaigning is why this issue remains a priority and I absolutely support People and Planet’s campaign for full divestment,” she said.

People and Planet Edinburgh also said that being in regular contact with Urte has significantly helped their campaign.

“It is time that the University acknowledges that the establishment of the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department in 2014, the Fossil Free working groups, the partial divestment from tar sands, coal and ‘controversial’ weapons and divestment from Ultra Electronics are all the result of persistent student campaigning,” the organisation told The Student.

People and Planet Edinburgh say that they are committed to ethical investment, and have said that they will continue to push until the university commits to stop investing in companies whose turnover consists of over 5% of fossil fuels or weapons.

The campaign has been active for over 10 years and student involvement and support from the staff and the wider public has been a key tool in keeping the campaign alive, according to activists.

“Investment is a political and active choice and currently the University of Edinburgh is not recognising its global responsibility “, People and Planet told The Student.

“By investing in fossil fuels and arms industries, the university is legitimising and making profit from climate change and war,” they continued.

However, the University of Edinburgh is the first university in Europe to commit to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment and the updated ethical policy agenda provides a stepping stone towards further commitment to ethical investment.

EUSA claim that one of the most important developments made in the updated ethical investment policy is that they have provisionally secured student representation in the University Investment Committee.

Macikene told The Student: “Securing student representation in the Committee would allow students to engage at a high level with decisions taken on investment in a consistent way.”

“There is always more that can be done and we will not stop until we secure full divestment from fossil fuel and arms companies and continue positive reinvestment into things like environmental tracking funds and social enterprises,” she continued.

People and Planet agreed, as a spokesperson told The Student: “A student representative for ethical investment was one of the goals of the campaign from the beginning and it is vital for taking democratic decisions.”

“It is essential to have a representative of the student body who has no vested financial interests and considering that what counts as ‘ethical investment’ will inevitably change in the future, this allows us to have a continuing discussion,” they continued.

Image credit: Friends of the Earth Scotland

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