Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Green Mountain College Board Approves Divestment of Fossil Fuel Holdings

Re-posting this article from Green Mountain College:

May 14, 2013

The Green Mountain College board of trustees approved divestment from 200 publicly-traded companies which hold most of the world’s known coal, oil and gas reserves at its May 10 meeting. The decision aligns the college with its strategic plan "Sustainability2020,” which commits GMC to socially responsible investments. Following the decision, the college administration will work with its investment advisors to implement the plan.

"We see this as another step in an ongoing effort to connect our investment decisions with our ideals,” said Paul Fonteyn, president of Green Mountain College. "Investing endowment funds on the basis of social, economic and environmental criteria is one of the ways Green Mountain College expresses its values."

GMC has long been committed to reducing its own consumption of fossil fuels on campus. The College built a $5.8 million dollar biomass plant in 2011 which successfully converted the college's main heating source from fuel oil to renewable energy in the form of locally harvested woodchips.

The proposal to divest in fossil fuels resulted from a collaboration between student groups, including Divest GMC, and the college administration. In 2010 the trustees approved an initial investment equal to 15% of the college's endowment in a portfolio of companies that design ecologically superior products, use renewable energy, and develop efficient production methods. Students in Divest GMC hosted a "teach-in" presented by GMC economics professor Paul Hancock and hosted an online interview with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose organization 350.org has urged colleges to purge their investment portfolios in fossil fuel companies.

"We're pleased with the conversation that has occurred this semester between students and administration, resulting in the divestment from 350.org’s list of the most destructive 200 fossil fuel companies," said a statement issued by Divest GMC. "As students of an Environmental Liberal Arts college we look forward to continuing the dialogue of authentic sustainability, both environmentally and socially. In this way we are strengthening student voice in all aspects of institutional education."

“I’m delighted Green Mountain College has taken a leadership role in this important issue,” McKibben said. “GMC has long had a great reputation for environmental studies. Now they've demonstrated that it's a core part of their values. What leadership!"

A special advisory committee made up of students and administrators will continue to meet and review GMC's investment portfolio and provide recommendations regarding socially responsible investment initiatives, guided in part by best practices identified by the Sustainable Endowments Institute and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's sustainability tracking and rating system's investment section.

Kudos to GMC for their courageous and forward leadership!