University of Reading - End Unethical Investment

University of Reading - End Unethical Investment

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Students for Divestment started this petition to University of Reading Officers

Due to the fact that the University is currently reviewing its investments, we believe that it is important to discuss its published ethical investment policy. We are especially troubled by Reading’s investments in fossil fuel companies, and financial structures that themselves invest billions in fossil fuels. In total the university has almost £14million invested in unethical  companies. [1]

The ongoing climate crisis causes untold harm worldwide. Meanwhile, Reading’s ethical investment guidelines do not go far enough to combat this. The University stated in 2016 that it would “move its full endowment portfolio to investment fund(s) that exclude companies generating the bulk of their revenues and reserves from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels”.[2] It is worrying to see that the University may still allow direct investments into harmful fossil fuels including natural gas. We have no confirmation that this ‘movement’ towards ‘low-key’ fossil fuel companies is at all close to being achieved. This is not a solution to the climate crisis - we must stop investing in fossil fuels.

Within the university guidelines, investment vehicles should encourage companies they invest in to work towards climate goals including carbon neutrality. Without establishing any systems to actually hold these companies to account, there is no policy to ensure these companies take real climate action. In other words, the University presents green rhetoric but is not implementing it across the board.

For example, the University invests millions in fossil fuel companies and banks that invest billions in fossil fuels.[3] These companies include HSBC, BNP Paribas, BPCE/Nataxis, Santander, and RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland). Barclays, for example, ranks 6th in the top 33 global banks financing fossil fuels – having financed over eighty-five billion dollars in fossil fuel companies since the 2016 Paris Agreement (declaring a climate emergency).[4] Reading invests more than two-hundred-thousand pounds in Barclays, and therefore has a hand in the expansion of fossil fuel companies.[5] The University invests similar amounts in other banks and fuel companies, such as those previously listed.

Weapons sold by BAE Systems to countries such as Turkey are currently being used to kill and maim civilian populations in Syria. Whilst not directly investing in them, Reading has indirect investments in and ongoing partnerships and internship programs with arms dealers such as BAE.[6] The University therefore allows and advertises the arms industry as a place to send its students. We believe that it is impossible for the University to maintain these links in good conscience if it is adhering to its policy of ethical investment.

By having fossil fuel and arms dealing red lines in its investment policy the University has acknowledged that promoting these industries is unethical. We want to see this position taken seriously and the red lines fully implemented in the following ways:

 

1.      No direct or indirect investment in fossil fuel or arms companies whatsoever.

2.      No use of any investment vehicle that allows investment in fossil fuel or arms companies

3.      No partnerships or advertising of internship programs with fossil fuel or arms companies.

 

These are genuine red lines that the University should not cross. We the undersigned request that they are adopted and implemented as official University policy.


[1] Evidence for figures drawn from cross referencing UoR’s investments with https://www.fossilbanks.com https://www.dontbankonthebomb.com/2019-hos and sources available on request
[2] https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-archive/press-releases/pr671952.html
[3] http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/finance/finance-2019-statement.pdf
[4] Banking On Climate Change, Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2019, published 2019, seen on page 7.
[5] http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/finance/finance-2019-statement.pdf
[6] BAE is listed as a previous location for student placements here: https://www.reading.ac.uk/ready-to-study/study/subject-area/computer-science-ug/bsc-computer-science.aspx

 

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