Investing for the Future: An Open Letter to Lancaster University's Stakeholders

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Dear Lancaster University Stakeholders,

            Every year, our university invests money. These investments are made purely for the purpose of making profit, and last year amounted to a budget of more than 3 million pounds. While these investments are decided upon by University management stakeholders, they were subject to some public scrutiny by students and staff some years ago when organised activist groups decided to look into our university investments through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The FOI revealed considerable investments in companies and industries that have demonstrably negative and needless impacts on human lives everywhere, ranging from tobacco and weapons manufacturers to fossil fuel and mining companies.

            Years later, a number of students from our group at Lancaster University Extinction Rebellion (LUXR) went back to the issue of ethical investments to see what, if anything, had changed. After a successful FOI, over a hundred unpaid working hours of analysis, research and writing, our group of half-a-dozen students found conclusive evidence that Lancaster University’s investments were in fact not ethical. Investments were still made directly and indirectly into businesses and industries that contributed to our ecological crisis, human suffering and other issues that we felt, as students of this institution, we could not remain silent about.

            On June 23rd, we decided to make our findings public. “An Investigation into the Social Responsibility of Lancaster University’s Investments as of January 1st, 2020” was published online and we began the ‘campaign’ phase of our push for better investment policies. This open letter, accompanying the report, exists as a show of solidarity, unity and a common wish for a better future. As integral members of this institution, we have a right to demand our money is invested in a socially responsible way, lest we allow our sense of human decency to be ruled over by profit motives. People over money, this is the crux of our demand. From fossil fuel companies to weapons manufacturers, there are other places for us to put our investments. The fact that students had to look into these funds shows that either very little time was spent actually going over the investment policies, or that the university does not care.

Today, we ask you, as people who have been hired and trusted to manage our great institution, to do the right thing.

We ask that you revise the way investments are made at Lancaster University, from top to bottom.

We ask that you expand your own definitions of “ethical” and “socially responsible” to exclude companies that directly profit from industries which destroy our people and planet.

That you read our report, in its entirety, and take concrete measures to divest out of the funds we have highlighted as being negative and find ways to invest in those we’ve noted as having positive impacts.

Investments do not have to go through outsourced investment firms in big cities far away from Lancaster. Why not invest in more local, more green and ethical businesses or projects? Profits are not localised simply in these areas, our own region is one of impressive potential and wealth in its people, ideas and passions.

We, students, staff and alumni of Lancaster University, ask today that you take urgent action to stop the destruction of our planet, and instead contribute to its thriving, socially responsible, future.

Thank you.


Link to "An Investigation into the Social Responsibility of Lancaster University’s Investments as of January 1st, 2020”: