The University is monitoring sustainable investment developments across the Ivy League in light of recent demonstrations and policy changes across peer institutions, although it considers it is still too early to make a decision.
Harvard President Drew Faust recently announced Harvard’s commitment to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, aimed at tackling climate change. The Principles are intended to guide institutions toward an investment policy that takes environmental and social costs into consideration. However, Faust also noted that Harvard would not divest from the fossil fuel industry.
Harvard’s announcement followed a demonstration at Yale earlier in the month, during which students called for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
The Princeton University Investment Company, which invests the University’s endowment, has traditionally held an opaque portfolio. According to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua, the University does not discuss the specifics of its portfolio, citing the need to maintain a “competitive edge.”
All petitions for divestment are channeled through the Resources Committee, a CPUC subcommittee responsible for responding to community concerns about the University’s investment practices.
Karen Jezierny, Director of Public Affairs at the University, said that the Resources Committee was monitoring developments at Harvard.
“We do recognize that we have a responsibility to keep up-to-date and abreast in what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Jezierny said. “We meet annually with PRINCO to talk about what the hot topics are in investment questions, including sustainable investment … and I’m absolutely certain that we’re going to be discussing the PRI principles and the impact of those on Harvard’s investment decisions.”
However, Jezierny also said she thought it was too early to assess the influence of Harvard’s decision to endorse the PRI.
“Harvard’s decision is so new that as of last week it didn’t even appear on the PRI website,” she noted. “It’s so new it’s hard to predict what actual effect it has.”
PRINCO rarely addresses specific investments publicly. The last public announcement came in early 2012, when PRINCO president Andrew Golden confirmed the University would stop investing in the HEI Hotels and Resorts. The move followed similar statements from Yale, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania, after HEI was accused of violating workers’ rights.
Nonetheless, at the time Golden said the determination was “based purely on business decisions.”
Students United for a Responsible Global Environment circulated a petition last February calling for the University to divest from companies involved in fossil fuel production. Isaac Lederman ’15, copresident of the organization, said that SURGE had gathered 596 signatures and planned to formally submit the proposal to the Resources Committee before the end of the academic year.
“We’re looking forward to working with the University to help them invest more sustainably and align its investments with its values,” Lederman said.
Lederman also said he was cautiously optimistic about a trend toward sustainable investment across the Ivy League.
“It’s encouraging to see progress on this front,” he said. “It’d be fantastic to see full divestment, but we think what’s happening there is a step in the right direction.”
News editor Anna Mazarakis contributed reporting.