CISR votes against GU Fossil Free’s proposal for full divestment

January 28, 2015

The Committee on Investment and Social Responsibility announced in a statement on Monday that it voted against GU Fossil Free’s most recent divestment proposal, which called for complete divestment from the 200 largest fossil fuel companies over the next three years.

In the statement, CISR chair Jim Feinerman writes, “After four months of discussion and consideration, the CISR voted against the adoption of GUFF’s final proposal to divest completely from fossil fuel companies.”

When explaining the committee’s decision, Feinerman pointed to the complexity of the issue as well as the possible financial risk of divesting. He also emphasized the thoughtful and serious consideration the committee gave on the proposal.

According to a detailed memo released by CISR, “Among other topics, CISR discussed at length the roles of fiduciary responsibility and moral voice … and the specific role that Georgetown, as a Catholic and Jesuit institution, has in confronting the real dangers of climate change while at the same time being mindful of our need to ensure the maximum return on Georgetown’s endowment consonant with a broad range of moral concerns.”

Although CISR does not believe Georgetown should completely divest, the memo does offer alternative recommendations including targeted divestment, shareholder engagement, and collaboration with other universities and nonprofits. According to CISR’s recommendations for targeted and focused divestment Georgetown “should divest from companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy production because there are energy alternatives that have less harmful environmental impact.”

GUFF expressed discontent with CISR’s proposal for partial divestment in a statement released shortly after CISR issued its decision. “The CISR’s decision not to support full divestment is disappointing. Partial divestment is an insufficient tactic, and, in light of the challenges at hand, is ideologically inconsistent with the CISR’s mandate to align Georgetown’s investments with its ethical standards.”

GUFF member Chloe Lazarus (COL ‘16) believes that it is flawed for CISR to think that just divesting from coal is adequate. “It really has to do with who they classify as the worst actors and who we should divest from. They operate under the assumption that coal companies are worse than natural gas or oil companies,” she said. “They look at that based on the political views on coal and how as a country we’re moving away from coal. That doesn’t mean that coal is actually worse than other fossil fuels.”

GUFF’s statement also emphasized that because the university is not taking this initial step towards divestment, its further efforts to create more sustainable and environmentally friendly decisions will be compromised. The group has called for immediate, direct action.

GUFF member Annie Wang (COL ‘16) echoes this belief. “I don’t think the CISR is actually recognizing the broad range of moral concerns associated with our University’s investments in fossil fuels, nor the real dangers of climate change,” Wang wrote in GUFF’s statement.

CISR’s vote against the proposal will not prevent GUFF from moving forward. According to Lazarus, GUFF still plans to meet with President DeGioia and then present their proposal to the Board of Directors at their meeting in February. “We are not planning on editing our proposal at all,” she said. “We are still calling on the university to divest from all 200 companies outlined.”



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