By Aaron Greiner and Izzy Harrison on behalf of GROW
So, What is Divestment?
According to Wikipedia, “Divesting is the act of removing stocks from a portfolio based on mainly ethical, non-financial objections to certain business activities of a corporation.” One of the first times that divestment was used as a means to promote a social change was during apartheid, the extreme system of racial segregation, in South Africa. Companies, universities, organizations, local governments, and individuals took their money out of apartheid-affiliated businesses and are partially credited with helping to dismantle the system.
Today, there is a new divestment movement. Five hundred and seven institutions and 3.4 trillion dollars have been divested from the oil and gas industries. The goal of this movement is to put financial pressure on the largest contributors to climate change and other environmental disasters in an effort to get them to behave in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner. Sixty-one colleges have already divested in some meaningful way, and we hope Olin will join the movement.
Why Should Olin Divest?
Olin was founded on the principle of making the world a better place. Fossil fuels are unsustainable (they will run out), and are the single greatest contributors to climate change, so we believe it is against Olin’s founding principles to support fossil fuel companies We believe that continuing to profit from the destruction of the environment through knowingly investing our money in companies that are accelerating the pace of climate change is fundamentally against Olin’s core values.
The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet with disastrous effects. Furthermore, as the market inevitably shifts towards more renewable energy sources, we believe an innovative institution such as Olin should be on the forefront of this change.
We believe progressive action towards divestment will be a sound decision for the wellbeing of Olin’s alumni and current and future students. We deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future unimpaired by climate chaos.
What Have We Done so Far?
A little over a year ago, we started meeting with our CFO Patty Gallagher and Chair of the Investment Committee Doug Kahn to explore what it might look like if Olin were to divest. They were incredibly receptive, and we formed a close partnership. Over the past year, we have had many meetings and are making positive progress towards a solution that we can all get behind. In addition, we had a meeting with the investment firm that manages Olin’s money to get a sense from them about what divestment could look like while, of course, keeping the best financial interests of the school in mind.
We are very fortunate that we are at a place like Olin where we can have meetings like this, and our collaborative approach has had positive results. The Investment Committee has begun to have discussions about the topic of divestment. We will continue to work with Doug and Patty to advance the conversation towards a mutually acceptable resolution.
Before we move forward, we want to be confident that this is something that Faculty, Staff, Board Members, and Students, can all get behind. We are looking forward to continuing the progress in the fall and hope to keep the community updated.
Want to get Involved, or have Questions/Concerns?
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