The Concordia University Foundation announced its intention to withdraw all of its investments from the coal, oil and gas sector before 2025.
The Concordia University Foundation plans to be the first Quebec university with 100 per cent sustainable investments within five years. Currently, $14 million of Concordia’s $243 million assets is going into the coal, gas and oil sectors.
“We believe that being socially and environmentally responsible in our investments is the surest way to be Concordia University’s best possible fund management partner,” said Howard Davidson, Chair of the Board of the Concordia University Foundation, in a press release Friday. “Investing in sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”
While Concordia cancelled classes for the climate strike on Sept. 27, some questioned why the university still invested in fossil fuels, as pointed out by Jacob Robitaille, internal coordinator of Concordia’s La Planète s’invite à l’Université in a previous interview with The Concordian.
“It doesn’t send a straightforward message,” Robitaille said of Concordia’s environmental position.
But now, the university is aiming to double investments that generate social and environmental impact with a financial return. For instance, Concordia partnered earlier this year with Inerjys Ventures, a global investment fund promoting the adoption of clean tech.
“It’s a social movement as much as a financial one, and this announcement has a lot of power for the climate justice movement across the country,” said Divest Concordia representative Emily Carson-Apstein. “We’re looking forward to keeping the students updated as this process goes on.”
“Promoting sustainability and fighting climate change are priorities for the Concordia community,” said Concordia’s interim President Graham Carr in a press release. “Our researchers, students, faculty and staff are all engaged around this issue and want to be part of the solution. The Foundation’s commitments are crucial next steps in our sustainability journey.”
Student organizations, such as Divest Concordia have long advocated for the withdrawal of the university from those investments. In a previous article for The Concordian, Alex Hutchins reported that since its creation in 2013, Divest Concordia has been continually pressuring the foundation to freeze its assets.
In 2014, the student-run group joined forces with the CSU to create the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC). Now, they see their own $10 million investment in sustainable funds from 2017 as laying the groundwork for the university’s decision, Divest Concordia explained in a statement sent to The Concordian.
“This has always been an issue of priorities, and it’s great that the foundation agrees with what the students have been shouting about for years,” said Emily Carson-Apstein, the Divest Concordia representative on the committee. “It’s a social movement as much as a financial one, and this announcement has a lot of power for the climate justice movement across the country. We’re looking forward to keeping the students updated as this process goes on.”
Long-time member of Divest Concordia Nicolas Chevalier agrees. “Concordia has finally decided to listen to the voices of the student body and align their investment portfolio in a way that doesn’t fund our collective demise. Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time, and the institutions that produce research on this crisis should strive to align their operations with the science, fossil fuel divestment is no exception.”
Divest Concordia members work across multiple environmental advocacy organizations. Hania Peper, a representative of Divest Concordia and LPSU (La planète s’invite à l’Université), was hopeful in the wake of Concordia’s decision: “Last week, Concordia took its first true steps towards addressing climate injustice by divesting from an industry that has been funding both climate change and the degradation of human and environmental communities all over the globe. While the ripple effects of this decision have yet to be seen, I’m hopeful that this can serve as inspiration for other Canadian universities to follow-suit and begin divesting from fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.”
This article is an updated version from a previous article published on Nov. 8
Feature graphic by @sundaeghost