The Fossil Free Society, inspired by the international fossil fuel divestment movement, was formed in 2014 by former student Rachel Simon to rally against the University investing in companies whose activities contribute to global warming.
This week, the University of Bristol announced bold plans to divest its endowment funds from the most carbon intensive sectors of the fossil fuel industry. Instead, investments in the energy sector will now focus on companies which are having the greatest impact on reducing carbon emissions.
The University’s divestment and reinvestment commitment represents a huge victory for the Fossil Free Society, which has praised the new policy for being “one of the clearest and most wide-ranging in Britain.”
As part of this new policy, the University is looking for a fund manager who will seek to reduce the carbon emissions profile of the endowment assets invested in the energy sector.
The University has already moved £3 million (five per cent) of its endowment funds into a fund that invests in companies which enhance the environment and life of the communities in which they operate.
Professor Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “We are proud to be a sector-leader in sustainability - from the research we support, the curricula we teach and the student experience we offer, to the way we behave as an organisation. Our new investment policy has been developed to be consistent with our sustainability aims.”
Nick Wood, Head of Research of the Fossil Free Society, said: “Our agreed plan of divestment with the University is one of the clearest and most wide-ranging in Britain, so we’re very pleased. The target on coal and tar sands is very strict, clearly defined and time-limited – the gold standard for divestment targets. How far the University divests from fossil fuels will depend on how this policy is implemented.”
Paloma Parkes, Head of the Fossil Free Society, added: “This has demonstrated how far perseverance and environmental commitment can go. We will continue to be involved and will keep pushing for continued improvement.”
The University’s Board of Trustees has agreed to new criteria, which include a commitment to:
The development of these criteria has been informed by discussions with staff and students, including those who represent Fossil Free Bristol.
Representatives from the University of Bristol Students’ Union (Bristol SU) and University staff will also be involved in the tender process and an annual review which looks at the progress being made in implementing the new policy.
The University’s new strategy, launched last year, outlines its commitment to sustainability and addressing social and environmental challenges. A key ambition is to become carbon neutral by 2030, setting an example for the higher education sector.