A key way that universities can make a difference on climate change is through their investments. Oxford university has endowment assets of £1.3bn whilst individual colleges have their own endowments which total to £5.06bn.
Divestment is a tactic of withdrawing investments from companies which go against an institution’s moral stance. Nationally, there has been a huge campaign for divestment from fossil fuel companies, and this has resulted in 97 UK universities committing to fossil fuel divestment.
In 2020, following a successful campaign led by both students and academics, the University of Oxford announced that it would divest its central endowment from fossil fuels. This was achieved through a motion being posed to the University’s Congregation, which is a democratic mechanism in the University where university staff can vote on policy issues. This motion was co-ordinated by the Student Union and Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, and more detail on it can be found here.
The campaign for fossil fuel divestment at Oxford University is not over. Despite the university’s central fund being committed to fossil fuel divestment, many colleges have still not committed to fossil fuel divestment and some still have significant investments in fossil fuel companies.
If you are up for joining the campaign to achieve fossil fuel divestment at colleges, we need you! Contact your Environment and Ethics Rep to find out if there’s an active campaign in your college, and if they’re not sure, email email@example.com.
There is also now a committee specifically focusing on ethical investment policy, namely The Ethical Investment Representations Review Subcommittee which can consider concerns related to ethical or socially responsible investing. We have student representation on this committee, with our VP for Charities and Community being a member.