RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Meeting America’s “Most Respected Bankers”

Loyola University Chicago, REC, and allies take on JPMorgan on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

At 10:15 AM on Tuesday, May 18th, I entered One Chase Plaza, JP Morgan Chase’s world headquarters with representatives from Loyola University Chicago, Swarthmore College, Rainforest Action Network, and Waterkeeper Alliance, for the annual shareholder meeting.

Outside, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir marched in green robes, calling on the bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining.  Inside, people waited to hear from Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, and one of the most “respected” bankers in the US, and to say their piece about what JPMorgan is and should be doing.

For the last few years, JPMorgan Chase has been one of the largest financers of mountaintop removal coal mining in America. Mountaintop removal mining is a horrible practice that levels mountains, pollutes water supplies, and tears apart the fabric and resources of communities in central Appalachia in West Virginia and Kentucky. Even the coal mining companies have said that it can’t be done without violating the regulations and permitting of the EPA and other government agencies.

So how did we get here, to the center of corporate America?

Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit university, set up a shareholder advocacy committee three years ago to engage with the companies that their endowment has stock in around issues of sustainability and social responsibility.

Last fall, Loyola filed a resolution with support from the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and other allies asking for JPMorgan to report on their financing of mountaintop removal and to implement a policy stopping it. Though omitted by the SEC Loyola continued the dialogue, engaging JPMorgan’s senior management and encouraging them to change.  In our dialogue, the company agreed to publish a statement, but then backed away. It seemed like they were thinking, “Why should the most profitable bank in the country listen to these people?”

But on the Monday before the meeting, JPMorgan published its first statement on mountaintop removal, both a big victory for Loyola, REC, and our allies, and a step forward for JPMorgan. In the policy, the company said that they no longer financed the practice, but didn’t commit to a verifiable practice.

JPMorgan Chase needs a transparent and verifiable way to completely stop financing companies that are engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.

At the shareholder meeting,, we confronted Jamie Dimon, demanding a stronger policy in front of fellow shareholders of JPMorgan, and received cheers from the audience for our comments and questions. Even at a meeting of many loyal shareholders, attendees knew which way the wind was blowing.
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Hello REC!

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Hi everyone - my name's Martin Bourqui (that's BOHR-key - it's French-Swiss) and I am both honored and excited to be joining REC as their new national organizer!


A little about me: I was a political science and English major at Tufts University, where I participated in a campaign pushing to bring transparency and responsible investment to the Tufts endowment. We focused on trying to strengthen and support our Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, a committee that wouldn't have been possible without the tireless work of an earlier generation of Tufts students and support from REC. It was an experience that taught me many valuable lessons, allowed me to connect with a number of amazing activists at Tufts, and put the world of REC's work on my radar. Since my time at Tufts I've been in close touch with REC as a supporter and as a member of the Steering Committee before being hired to follow this passion full-time.


I am very optimistic about REC and look forward to meeting and working with a new generation of student activists, and allies across the country. In the past year I've come to know more and more students nationwide working on REC-supported campaigns and have become aware of an entire new world of perspectives, issues, strategies that they bring to the table. To all of you working on your campaigns - for democratization, transparency, community investment, social justice, environmental responsibility, or any other issue you advocate - I can only say that I will use all of the resources at my disposal to support you.


Talk to you all soon,


Martin



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Campus Updates


American University


AU Solidarity hopes to continue pushing their community investment campaign forward next year and are excited to have brought together new allies to the cause.


Bard College


Student members of the Committee on Socially Responsible Investing are holding a forum to inform the community about their work and invite people to get involved.



DePaul University


A weak proposal is currently working its way through the Fair Business Practices committee suggesting that DePaul should consider adopting an SRI policy.




Georgetown University


Georgetown Divest! is pressuring the school to divest from companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Learn more here.



Green Mountain College


Students began pushing for a committee in spring 2009 and won! The new committee is currently working to invest about 18% of the endowment in an SRI fund. More details to follow.



Howard University


Students continue to push university officials to engage in a conversation about responsible investment.



Macalester College


Students recently passed a referendum defining what socially responsible investing means on the Macalester campus. Administrators are open to using this definition to guide investment decisions and students are considering formatting an endowment advisory committee that would be responsible for active outreach to the community and working with the investment office to locate socially responsible investing opportunities.



Middlebury College


The Middlebury Committee and students in the campus environmental movement eagerly await the establishment of a Green Fund to invest in sustainability projects. The school has committed to the fund the timeline has been altered somewhat. Students hope to remain involved in shaping the fund and are actively petitioning their administrators to make that happen.



Seattle University


The school continues to deepen its commitment to community investment. Learn more at http://www.endowmentethics.org/blog/archives/249. The school is also taking action against Massey Energy.



SUNY Stony Brook


Students recently held a strategy presentation with REC staff to help determine next steps in their efforts to bring accountability to the endowment.



University of Michigan


The student senate recently passed resolution to establish a responsible investment policy and committee!



University of Texas-Austin


The Graduate Student Assembly has passed a resolution calling for the socially responsible investment of their endowment, the largest public school endowment in the country. More on the folks behind it at http://www.utbds.org/.



University of California


Students in the UC Responsible Investment Committee continue to await the next Regents meeting. It has been delayed for several months. In the meantime they are planning a system-wide strategy meeting before summer to develop a plan for the coming year.



Vassar College


The Campus Investment Responsibility Committee recently welcomed new members, finished voting their proxies, invited REC to come speak and looks forward to educating the campus community about their work in the fall.



Washington University-St. Louis


Washington University Students for Endowment Transparency ran a successful campaign this year to convince the school to adopt an SRI policy. This culminated with a student government resolution and a promise from the school to review policies at other schools, with the help of a student intern this summer.




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Go Midwest! Student Government Resolutions Pass at UM, Wash U, and Macalester!

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It's the end of the semester and many campaigns in our movement are wrapping up with student government resolutions supporting demands for responsible and accountable investment policies at our schools. These resolutions are often the results of hours of petitioning, tabling, and teach-ins designed to educate the campus community and gain support for ethical endowment practices. Two of those resolutions come from committed REC affiliates at Washington University-St. Louis, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Macalester College.

Washington University-St. Louis students organized Washington University Students for Endowment Transparency (WUSET) last year after learning that many members of the Board of Trustees are connected (by Boards or employment) to dirty energy companies in order to give students and the campus community, not industry interests, a say in how the school's money is invested. After months of rallying, petitioning, meeting with officials, and otherwise raising a ruckus the WUSET has successfully convinced the student government to support their efforts to bring accountability to Wash U investments, predominately by establishing a Committee on Investor Responsibility like those  in place at the top universities in the nation. The school plans to begin reviewing other responsible investment policies and develop recommendations this summer. A website about this effort is expected this month.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor graduate and undergraduate students from Net Impact and environmental groups successfully passed a resolution supporting responsible investment practices of the endowment. That resolution focuses on developing proxy voting guidelines on environmental and social issues to add to the existing guidelines in use for governance and financial issues. If  the UM administration agrees it will be largest public university endowment voting environmental and social proxies!

Macalester College students recently passed a referendum defining socially responsible investing for their campus. They have since met with administrators who are eager to integrate students into the investment process and are open to using the guidelines students approved!  You can read the referendum here.

If your group is currently pushing a resolution, or has successfully passed one, let us know! We'd love to share the news and are happy to provide you with copies of previously submitted and passed resolutions from other schools as well. For access to those resources email organize (at) endowmentethics (dot) org.
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Hey Seniors! Join the REC 2010 Class Gift!

Dear Senior,

Like you, I’m a Senior busy balancing my activism with work, school, and planning for the rest of my life. Graduation is a time to celebrate, but it’s also a time to reflect: What will our legacy be at our schools? Who has been there to help us succeed? What can we do to
thank them?

As a student at American University, my activism has been an important
part of my college experience and I want to thank the people who have
supported me in that work. That's why I've decided to participate in
the 2010 REC Senior Class Gift.

Unlike my university, which is asking graduating seniors to donate for
some benches outside of a new campus building, I know the $10 or $25
that I give to REC will be used to directly benefit student activists
like me. In keeping with their democratic processes, they’re even
asking us to vote on how the money is spent! This is much more in line
with the kind of legacy that I want to leave on campus, and all for
about the same cost as a pizza.

REC has done incredible things for me during my years at American. Not
only did they teach me about running campus campaigns and the
strategy, messaging, movement building and media work that goes into
it, but they also taught me, an anthropologist, everything I needed to
know about finance and investments to make my campaigns successful. I
have high hopes for American Universities current Community Investment
campaign, and REC has been there to support me every step of the way.
The 2010 Senior Class Gift is my way of expressing my gratitude and my
desire to give back to the organization.

So, fellow graduating seniors, I’m asking you to join me. If you’ve
ever attended one of REC’s conferences or trainings, asked REC a staff
member to edit your proposals or give you advice for your campaign, or
used their website, handbooks and case studies, then you know what
valuable skills and resources they’re providing to student activists. 
Help me to help REC continue doing the awesome work they do. Click here to donate and vote today!

Sincerely,

Mary Schellentrager

American University Class of 2010
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Seattle University takes Community Investment to the Next Level

After a student and faculty-led proposal for increased investment in the Seattle University (SU) community, the administration invested an initial $100,000 in a Seattle neighborhood microenterprise firm, Community Capital Development (CCD) http://seattleccd.com/drupal/. The firm provides small loans to local businesses that don’t have conventional access to funds.

Beginning next fall, CCD will invite 2-3 SU student interns to work with their loan officers in the distribution of these funds to qualified applicants as well as providing financial guidance to the recipients’ microenterprise ventures.

This idea is actively supported by the Community Development and Entrepreneurship Clinic, a partnership between the Seattle University business and law schools. For over 5 years the Clinic has worked with Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (CASH) http://washingtoncash.org/ and Community Capital Development (CCD).

Steve Brilling, the Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center who is building the program with CCD, would like to see hands-on student/investment partnerships eventually expand to both WA CASH and CCD in other ways. Made possible by donations from McKinstry and BECU, he is working with Clinic faculty to have each student team work with their Clinic clients to explore the idea of getting additional funds to enhance their business growth. The donated seed fund would provide loan loss protection to any subsequently delinquent loans issued through the Clinic.

Though both programs are still in their finalizing stages, Seattle University faculty and administration are proud to be building a model for other community/university partnerships. For questions on how to make a program like this happen on your campus, please email maura@endowmentethics.org.
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Enough is Enough! Wall Street Rally 4/29

Politicians in Washington have been talking about financial reform for months, but the scandals and bonuses just seem to keep coming. When will it be enough?

Most Americans have already had enough, and this Thursday we need you to join us at a rally on Wall Street to tell Congress enough is enough!

REC is joining with allies from across the social justice movement because financial reform is an essential step towards creating a more just and sustainable economic system. Our schools both participated in and were hurt by the recent financial collapse, and we need strong regulation to protect students, workers, and communities from corporate greed.

Come and join us! The rally begins at 4pm at City Hall Park (Link to map: http://bit.ly/dp0wPs)  and culminates in a March on Wall Street at 5pm.

Wall street greed has directly affected the quality of our education as schools have cut scholarships, programs, workers, and faculty. Join with other progressives to let Congress know financial reform is absolutely essential to getting our economy on track—and that we won’t rest until they do it!

Hope to see you there! Email us at organize@endowmentethics.org if you want to join the REC affinity group.


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Reflecting on Earth Day & Climate Change

Last week, celebrations and gatherings took place around the world for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Many events focused on the personal decisions that individuals can make to help protect the environment. As I worked with community development financial institutions, I could easily write about the environmental benefits of banking locally. Instead, though, I want to focus on the intersection of the economy, investors, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Around the world, people are debating how to regulate emissions to stop climate change. On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in an on going battle. I believe, strongly, that no widely accepted proposal that has been offered to date goes nearly far enough to create the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Much of the ongoing debate, on both sides, talks instead about balancing the economic costs of regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Both sides in the political debate talk about ensuring that we don’t hurt our economy while implementing policies to prevent climate change. Companies, on the other hand, are spending millions of dollars lobbying to prevent a real, comprehensive climate-change and energy bill, often claiming that climate change doesn’t exist or is man-made.

In our work with shareholder advocates like CERES, the Responsible Endowments Coalition often encounters companies saying that they are trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but that any major change should be left up to the government, while at the same time lobbying against regulation. Many companies also say that they are prepared for the risks that are posed by climate change.

The first statement may be true. The latter is patently false. Almost no company is prepared for the risks of climate change. Similar to the country itself, they may be prepared for climate change regulation, but not the dramatic outcomes of climate change itself.

The risk of climate change, like that of nuclear weapons, is existential in nature. We may spend decades talking about addressing climate change without actually taking action. There is a chance that we will be fine, but there is a good chance that we will not.

A False Choice

One thing is crystal clear, as with company risks, the choice between our economy and preventing climate change is a false one. While some can say that regulation may hurt the economy, the truth is that no regulation at all will kill it, and, there is a slim chance, also kill every one of us.

Almost everyone that cares about these issues hopes that the science proves wrong. But most evidence points in the opposite direction. While the effects are currently unknown, climate change is a risk we cannot ignore. Like we do in many things from government spending to waste, we risk mortgaging our future generations.

The only real choice is to move to a clean energy economy, based primarily on incredible reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Whether we regulate or not, we face major changes to our economy. We must not make a bet on ten years of positive economic growth in exchange for the future of the planet. We also must not count on our ability to overcome the effects of climate change and leave many with less resource than us, in the Global South and elsewhere, to suffer.

At risk of being cliché, following the words of one of the founders of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson, who called for a “nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment.” Remember the original spirit of Earth Day. Don’t just go outside. Rise up and take a stand against the corporations fighting to continue polluting and fight for meaningful legislative action now.

Join the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Energy Action Coalition, and all of its member groups as we work to make changes that will protect our people and our planet for years to come.
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Georgetown University Facing Pressure to Divest

The Georgetown University campaign to selectively divest from corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory kicked off last week. The administration's response seems to be a bit up in the air, but today they removed sections of the Socially Responsible Investment Policy from their website. More details at Vox Populi and Georgetown, Divest!
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Big Banks Finance Mountaintop Removal; Devastate Communities and the Environment

I have dreamed on this mountain
Since first I was my mother's daughter
And you can't just take my dreams away – not with me watching.
You may drive a big machine
But I was born a great big woman
And you can't just take my dreams away – not with me fighting!
--Holly Near, Mountain Song


Mountaintop removal (MTR) is an incredibly destructive process that clearcuts forests, decimates mountains, and ruins ecosystems. Communities around MTR sites have experienced severe health consequences from the processes' waste materials - toxic metals and chemicals that coal companies dump into surrounding streambeds. People in these areas experience high flood risks, have lost access to clean and safe drinking water, and have astonishingly high rates of lung cancer, chronic heart, lung, and kidney diseases, and even death. For more information on how companies extract coal from thin seams in the mountains, and how MTR destroys communities and ecosystems, check out Mountain Justice’s explanation of the process.

There’s no question that mountaintop removal is bad for the environment, contributing 25-30% of greenhouse gas emissions each year despite providing only 7% of the United States’ coal. Surface mining has leveled 7% of all Appalachian forests since 1992. Proponents of mountaintop removal will argue that it creates jobs and generates revenue for low-income communities. This claim is true, as investigated in a 2009 report by West Virginia University. The researchers found that the coal industry generates $8 billion per year for Appalachia. However, the estimated cost of deaths attributed to MTR mining totals $42 billion per year, which outweighs the economic benefit five times over. And this is only the cost of deaths, not accounting for cancers and other diseases caused by the process.

This is a mountaintop removal site in WV that sits next to Marsh Fork Elementary.  Coal dust contaminates the school and endangers the students' and overall community's health.The Role of the US Government in MTR

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has the power to end this destructive process but refuses to take a tough stand against mountaintop removal, preferring to try to make the process more environmentally friendly. On April 1, the EPA announced it would strengthen environmental permitting requirements for MTR, clarify how the agency uses the Clean Water Act to reduce water pollution and the resultant human health impacts, and increase transparency in the process of granting mining permits. This is a step in the right direction, but the EPA’s focus on making surface mining safer is problematic in its impossibility. The MTR process inherently violates the Clean Water Act and will continue to be devastating to people and communities even if some aspects of it are changed. The Obama Administration must start caring about Appalachian communities more than corporate campaign donations. This priority shift would surely motivate the EPA to bring an end to the practice of mountaintop removal altogether.

The Corporate Offenders Who Engage in MTR

Massey Energy is the largest producer of coal in Appalachia, having extracted more than 21 million tons from mountains in 2008. They violated the Clean Water Act over 4,500 times (environmental activists estimate closer to 12,000) between 2000 and 2006 by dumping toxic sediment from their 12 surface mines into rivers. The EPA filed suit against Massey and they were ultimately fined $20 million. This case calls attention to the process of mountaintop removal and how its impossible not to violate provisions of the Clean Water Act as surface mining is currently practiced.

Peabody Coal is the world’s largest coal mining company, operating in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Wyoming. For four decades the US Government has assisted Peabody in attempts to force Navajo families off their ancestral homelands on Big Mountain and the surrounding communities around Black Mesa in Arizona. The communities continue to resist the forced relocation and construction of the Kayenta Mine.

Arch Coal is the second largest supplier of coal in the US and owner of the controversial Spruce Mine, the largest permitted site yet for MTR, in West Virginia. The mine was originally proposed in 1998 as a 3,100 acre expansion of another site that would have buried 10 miles of streams. Arch’s revised proposal from 2007 scaled the project back to encompassing 2,300 acres and 7 miles of streams. The company did obtain a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers three years ago, which environmental groups have been fighting since. The EPA is considering shutting down the entire mine for “unacceptable adverse impact,” which it has the power to do under the Clean Water Act but has only done 12 times since 1970 and never when the mine has had a permit. In response, Arch Coal is suing the EPA .

Alpha Natural Resources recently merged with US mining company Foundation Coal to become the third-largest coal producer in the US. They now operate 40 surface mines and 14 coal preparation plants in Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Banks that Finance Coal Companies & Make MTR Possible

Citibank has lent billions to companies seeking to build new coal-fired power plants and companies that engage in mountaintop removal, such as Massey Energy, Foundation Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources. They recently released a policy for environmental due diligence regarding MTR. Other banks have less extensive ties, such as Wells Fargo who recently stopped investing in Massey Energy.

Bank of America used to be the biggest bank funder of mountaintop removal, helping finance $6 billion for Peabody Coal and $175 million for Massey Energy in 2006. They single-handedly invested $835 million in Foundation Coal in 2006, $700 million in Arch Coal over five years starting in 2006, and over $500 million in Alpha Natural Resources in 2005. Bank of America has since changed their coal policy to “phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal.” Their use of “predominant” means their policy only applies to companies that engage in surface mine extraction as at least 50% of their overall operations. It has led them to decline deals with an estimated three companies so far, information about which has not been publicly released by the bank. Many claim that Bank of America has stopped financing MTR, which is false. They still falsely believe that the process “can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.”

Activists protest Bank of America's funding of mountaintop removal, eventually pressuring them to stop investing in companies whose primarily business is MTR.

JP Morgan Chase has recently become the largest financier of mountaintop removal. Over the past 17 years they have helped underwrite nearly 20 bond or loan deals worth a combined $8.5 trillion. In 2009 they invested $600 million in Arch Coal, which mined 4.7 million tons of coal from mountaintops that year. In 2008 they acted as the lead manager on a $690 million bond offering to Massey Energy. They are the only mega bank that has not scaled down its investment in MTR in the past few years.

Activist zombies (because coal kills!) protest JP Morgan Chase for it's financing of huge coal companies' MTR projects.

None of these banks have changed their policies willingly. Every victory for mountain communities and ecosystems represents years of struggle by social justice, environmental, and community groups. Shareholder resolutions have been a successful tactic to change coal companies’ policies. The Shareholder Advocacy Committee at Loyola University in Chicago filed a resolution with JP Morgan Chase after students traveled to Appalachia and witnessed the devastation of mountaintop removal firsthand. The resolution asks the bank to publicly report on the impact of MTR mining by clients and the financial impact on the bank if it were to ban MTR financing. Boston Common Asset Management has filed another resolution that demands that Chase adhere to their signature on the 2008 Carbon Principles Agreement, which would improve environmental impact disclosure and ultimately shift more funding into sustainable energy projects. If your school is invested in JP Morgan Chase you could get them to file a resolution to increase public pressure on the company. If you’d like to find out if you are invested, or for more information on filing a resolution, REC can help! Email us at info@endowmentethics.org. If you’re not part of an institution, think about where you keep your money and how you might be supporting MTR through your bank account. If you have an account with JP Morgan Chase, or another of the big banks who finance MTR, consider moving your money to a local credit union or community development bank and tell your old bank you switched because of their investments in mountaintop removal.

In addition to utilizing shareholder resolutions, justice groups have put pressure on JP Morgan Chase and other banks that invest in MTR through protests and direct actions. Coal River Mountain Watch is a grassroots Appalachian group that works to end MTR and rebuild sustainable communities, the Rainforest Action Network is running a campaign against Chase, the Sierra Club is running a Beyond Coal campaign, and Mountain Justice brings young activists to Appalachia during the spring and summer to engage in direct actions such as sit-ins in the West Virginia Governor’s office and pickets at Massey Energy headquarters. Recently the Church of Life After Shopping dumped toxic dirt from MTR sites in West Virginia outside JP Morgan Chase’s New York headquarters and other branches throughout the city. You could plan a similar action against Chase (or another financier) in your community by handing our fliers to customers, holding a sit-in inside a branch, or organizing a speaker or a rally to educate those around you about the devastation caused by mountaintop removal.

The Church of Life After Shopping dumps toxic dirt from a WV mountaintop removal site outside Chase's New York headquarters.
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