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Invest for Change campaign wins fossil fuel & arms divestment at Royal Holloway

July 18, 2023

Royal Holloway, University of London has published a new Statement of Investment Policy which includes divestment from fossil fuel and armament companies for the first time. This follows a year-long Invest for Change campaign led by Royal Holloway Students’ Union President (2022/23) Maia Jarvis, with support from SOS-UK’s Invest for Change campaign. The college previously held investments in oil and gas giants Shell and Equinor, which it has now sold.

SOS-UK welcomes this commitment given that the fossil fuel industry at large remains committed to business plans that are profoundly at odds with international climate goals and would lock in catastrophic climate breakdown. Shell and Equinor exemplify the industry’s pivotal role in driving climate breakdown and injustice, with Shell watering down already inadequate climate targets in recent months. Equinor, meanwhile, is pursuing plans to develop Rosebank, the UK’s largest underdeveloped oilfield, despite warnings from the world’s leading climate scientists and energy experts that there can be no new fossil fuel projects anywhere in the world in order to meet the critical 1.5 degree limit for global heating. The arms industry continues to supply weapons which tear communities apart, including to regimes such as Saudi Arabia, where human rights violations are clear and well-documented.

In addition to these headline exclusions, the new policy includes a commitment to address ‘Greenwashing Risk’ (i.e. “misleading or unsubstantiated claims about environmental performance, through the overstatement of the positive elements of sustainable investments or downplaying the negative aspects”) through “due diligence of fund managers and advisers, regular analysis and scrutiny of sustainability-related data provided, and the requirement for clear communication and language in the reporting of these issues”.

The policy also includes a commitment to ‘active stewardship’ for the first time. This involves an expectation that Royal Holloway’s investment managers “use shareholder voting power to drive positive environmental and social change” and adopt “a clear, public and time-bound escalation policy”.

The new policy also commits to improved transparency and accountability, including producing a public-facing annual report covering financial results, portfolio details and asset allocation, performance against sustainability targets, engagement activities and a detailed list of portfolio holdings. The policy will be reviewed and approved by Council every three years in consultation with the College Executive and the Students’ Union.

The commitments to student representation, fossil fuel and arms exclusions, asset manager engagement, active ownership and transparency are all recommendations in Invest for Change’s 7 Key Policy Asks for University Investment policies.

Maia Jarvis, Royal Holloway SU President 2022/23, said: “I am thrilled to have led this successful divestment campaign and worked so closely with students, staff and Council members to make Royal Holloway the 101 UK university to divest from fossil fuels. All ofthis was made possible by the Invest for Change campaign and Zak’s (CampaignManager) constant support and wealth of knowledge was absolutely vitalthroughout. The work they o in empowering young leaders to be at forefront ofethical finance campaigning and demystifying the world of investment is soimportant; it has galvanised in me a new passion for this branch of climateaction and enabled me to bring together the Royal Holloway community for acommon cause.  

As companies like Shell rake in record profits whilst actively destroying people and our planet and Equinor remain on track to develop Rosebank - the biggest oil and gas field in the North Sea - with no governmental pushback, it is absolutely vital students and young people send a strong message to decision makers that there simply cannot be any new investment in fossil fuels.   

I am excited to see the next steps the University and the Students’ Union take together to address the climate crisis and how Invest for Change will continue empowering young leaders to effect impactful policy change."

Zak Coleman, Campaign Manager for Invest for Change said: “It has been fantastic to work with Maia on this campaign over the last year. These updated commitments represent significant progress against our 7 Key Policy Asks and are testament to her dedicated, skillful campaigning and consultation work. The decision to divest from arms and fossil fuel companies is particularly welcome and makes one thing crystal clear: investor engagement will never change the core business models of these sectors. It is for governments –who remain in bed with oil and gas giants and major arms companies – to instead legislate to stop the likes of Shell and Equinor pursuing disastrous new fossil fuel projects, including the proposed Rosebank oilfield.

If you would like to start an Invest for Change campaign on your campus, please don’t hesitate to contact Zak Coleman at zak.coleman@sos-uk.org.