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Campaigning for Concordia to divest from dirty industries

by Kelly Duval September 17, 2013
Campaigning for Concordia to divest from dirty industries

Divest Concordia, a coalition of students and community members formed this past winter, is working to have Concordia invest sustainably and responsibly. The hope is that Concordia will be the first Canadian university to divest from fossil fuel industries.

Divest Concordia, a coalition of students and community members formed this past winter, is working to have Concordia invest sustainably and responsibly. Photo by Keith Race.

“[Concordia] has the knowledge and expertise to do this. It’s a matter of having the will to do it,” said Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, organizer of the Divest Concordia information sessions held on Sept. 10 and 14.

The organization’s goal is for Concordia to divest completely from fossil fuel industries in three years time, with the first step being to freeze its investments with such companies. Garoufalis-Auger announced four reasons why it’s important to divest from dirty forms of energy: climate change, pollution, the geopolitics of oil and the fact that the oil industry undermines democracy.

At the moment, Concordia has an endowment fund, which Divest Concordia compares to a savings account, of about $100 million for investment. As it states in the Responsible Endowment Coalition’s Student Handbook, most schools care about growing their money as much as possible, even if this includes sending funds to “international projects that are environmentally or socially irresponsible.”

“We have about $11.7 million in fossil fuel industries. There’s about $9.1 million that’s invested in oil and gas and there’s about $2.6 million invested in pipelines,” said Garoufalis-Auger. Divest Concordia is currently submitting access to information requests to find out what specific companies the school is investing in.

The Board of Governors is responsible for deciding whether the university will abandon investing in fossil fuel industries. Divest Concordia is currently organizing a presentation in hopes the BOG will see the necessity to invest in renewable energies.

The organization wants the university to adopt a binding social and environmental responsibility policy, formulated by a committee with student representation, so that reinvesting in fossil fuels at a later date won’t be a possibility. They also want Concordia to make a public statement endorsing the divestment campaign and to encourage other universities to do the same.

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Graduate Student Association (GSA) support this campaign.

Six campuses across North America have already divested. McGill and the University of Toronto are among some Canadian universities that already have divestment campaigns.

“If we can be the first in Canada to divest, that’d be nice,” said Garoufalis-Auger.

He further explained that companies specializing in renewable forms of energy will be coming to Quebec, seeing as the government is looking to buy wind turbines and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois wants Quebec to invest in the electrification of public transport.

“Quebec has a lot of investment management firms that are signed on to [sustainable] principles and it’d be nice to see Concordia do the same,” said Garoufalis-Auger.

Divest Concordia is in the process of creating an advisory board. They currently have a worker specializing in social finance from the School of Community and Public Affairs.

Students are encouraged to get involved by spreading the word about divestment, sending a letter, and attending Divest Concordia’s weekly meetings on Fridays at 2 p.m.  at the GSA House, 2030 Mackay.

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