This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Schools need ethical investments

This week’s topic: Should universities be forced to divest from fossil fuel investments?

In an era where more people are investigating the importance of ethical investing, it’s not surprising to hear that two groups are now pushing Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia to divest themselves of all fossil fuel investments.

Sustainable SFU, an “independent, student-led not-for-profit society working toward a sustainable future at Simon Fraser University campuses,” recently launched a campaign called Divest SFU. According to their website, they are asking the university to immediately freeze all new investments in fossil fuel companies, end ownership of these companies within five years, and disclose the potential greenhouse gas emissions of those investments.

At UBC, a group of students, staff, faculty and alumni have also started a movement to urge UBC to undertake similar divestments to the SFU action. This isn’t a new movement and it follows in the footsteps of many other major universities and cities. As people become more engaged in the events and changes in the world around us, the social and moral choices we make as consumers and investors become evident and important.

Every investor becomes a part owner in the companies within their portfolio, whether it’s a pension fund, RRSP, or another type of fund, with the ultimate goal of making a good return. Where the ethical or socially conscious investor differs is in examining how those companies make their money.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

If the values or the manner in which that company makes a profit is not in line with the values of the investor, it can be a personal conflict. For this reason, many people choose not to invest in companies that produce weapons, profit from tobacco and, in these cases, the fossil fuel industry.


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9 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Schools need ethical investments

  1. Investments are designed to MAKE MONEY. I’m surprised UBC has only 10% of their funds invested in oil. If a student wishes to make a statement, stop USING oil Sorry Laila, I’m with Brent on this one, FOR THE FIRST TIME!


  2. Well,, I am with you, LY. Here’s why: institutions of higher learning are there to help mankind learn and develop. Admittedly, they do so from a corrupt system that charges students and helps enslave them to the same system by way of debt, but, in theory anyway, they are there to teach us how to do better. Maybe even to lead us. And, if the lessons learned teach that a way of doing thing is wrong, it is proper that they teach that lesson. And teach that lesson the right way. And there is no better teacher than example. I do not expect them to wear a hair-shirt in pursuit of moral purity but they should, at the very least, eschew investments in the military industrial complex and other known destructive industries. That is what their RESEARCH is for. And that understanding now includes the long term negative effects of burning oil. Do I blame them for having made the investments in the first place? No, of course not. The money managers are focused on money and you have to expect that they would only see that. It is up the leaders to define investment decisions. And so a review of those decisions is required now and then and it is necessary to act on that review as times and lessons change. .


  3. You haven’t convinced me JDC. The institution is there to teach, and in this case show the benefits and dangers of oil, irrespective of the institutions investments. As the dangers are recognized the support will fall, the investment will lose value and be disposed of.
    I disposed of my oil investments, not for any altruistic reason, but because I reckoned they were at risk of losing value. Would I buy them back if I sensed a rebound? Probably, but that doesn’t mean I support the product.


  4. In the long running HBO series The Sopranos, mobster Tony Soprano’s wife Carmela refused on ethical grounds to help him make his money, a large part of which was from the protection racket; essentially a form of taxation on businesses operating in his territory. But she sure liked to spend it.

    Should these groups also press our institutes of higher learning to refuse any money from government unless it’s certified not to have been garnered from taxes on the fossil fuel industry? Or should they be advocating for an increased share of higher taxes on the industry to compensate them for eschewing their investments therein, thereby having the best of both worlds?

    Maybe Carmela could give them some advice.


  5. O.K., I’m with Brent on this one. Investments are just that, investments. Now that’s not saying you go ahead with unethical investments, but there are oil investments which could be made. The university has an obligation to the university to ensure it continues. its not like they were investing in smith and Weston,.


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