Columbia University Won’t Divest from Fossil Fuel Companies

by Greg Pollowitz

Columbia Spectator:

The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing announced on Wednesday that it voted not to support Barnard Columbia Divest’s proposal to divest from fossil fuel companies because the proposal did not meet the ACSRI’s criteria for divestment. 

The ACSRI said in its response to BCD that the decision was specifically in response to the Barnard Columbia Divest proposal, and not a general recommendation on fossil fuel divestment. The response also said that the ACSRI will establish a subcommittee to study student proposals for divestment and “pursue the optimal engagement model for the university.”

The response noted, however, that Columbia currently does not own stocks of any top-200 company in its directly managed portfolio. While Columbia does hold stocks of oil or gas companies that were donated or selected by donors, such securities are not controlled by the University’s Investment Management Company, which the ACSRI advises.

BCD proposed in November that the ACSRI recommend to trustees divestment from the top 200 publicly traded coal, oil, and gas companies, the imposition of a freeze on new fossil fuel investments, and divestment from all direct holdings and commingled funds within five years.

In the response, the ACSRI said that the BCD proposal did not meet the three basic criteria of the divestment being “a broad consensus within the University community regarding the issue at hand,” having merits of the dispute lying clearly on one side, and being “more viable and appropriate than ongoing communication and engagement with company management.”