RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Coalition of Immokalee Workers #March4th

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The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and allies send a message of solidarity with #March4th for Climate Justice.

The CIW is also currently marching - 200 miles - for farmworker justice. For more information, check out www.ciw-online.org.
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Vanderbilt students make it into The Nation!






Vanderbilt students have a sit-in, encouraging their university to divest from EMVest. During the sit-in, students lead a teach-in on EMVest's "land grabs."
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"Following ["land grab"] allegations, students, with support from the Oakland Institute and Responsible Endowment Coalition, met with administrators—who refused to take the issue seriously. After a long campaign, students took up direct action with sit-ins and a two-month long “tent city” in front of the administration building in May."

Another win for the endowment movement! Click here for more.
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Colleges Call for SEC Rule on Political Spending Disclosure

Macalester College (St. Paul, MN,) Unity College (Unity, ME), and Carleton College, (Northfield, MN), joined the growing chorus of institutions, investors, members of congress and citizens calling for Securities and Exchange Commission rulemaking. Over 470,000 comments have now been submitted in support of the petition to require companies to disclose to shareholders the use of corporate resources for political activities.

According to the letter from Macalester President Brian Rosenberg, if the SEC chooses to act on the Petition for Rulemaking, “Macalester College stands to gain the capacity to monitor more effectively the political activities of companies in which we hold shares through our institutional endowments, and thus discharge our responsibilities as a shareholder in a manner consistent with our institutional mission.”

Macalester, Unity, and Carleton, join The New School, whose Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility stated its support in October of 2012. 

In his letter, Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College, the first college to divest from fossil fuels, described how fossil fuel companies spend money “to prevent the environmental regulation and political action on climate change that [Unity] supports.”

Macalester student Zhe Yu Lee, who helped recommend this action to Macalester’s president said, “For a flourishing democracy, young people and others must be able to understand which stakeholders are influencing the political process.”

Dan Apfel, Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition which has supported colleges working on this initiative as investors, explains that, “disclosure is particularly important for colleges and universities, which have a mission to support the public good and help develop engaged citizens. It is time for higher education to stand up and let its voice be heard on this crucial issue.”

“When the trustees agreed to endorse the SEC Petition, I felt that we were finally speaking for our future generations, who want to live in a country ruled by citizens, and not by corporations," said student Rafadi Hakim, who serves on Carleton College’s Responsible Investment Committee.

The letters from Macalester College and Unity College are available at http://www.sec.gov/comments/4-637/4-637.shtml.

 

 
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Marching Forth for Climate Justice

By: Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa, Sally Bunner, and Lauren Ressler
March 4, 2013


Power Up! Divestment Convergence

Today is March 4th, 2013. On this day, hundreds of students across the country are marching forth for climate justice. Actions have taken place on campuses nationwide, including a banner drop at Haverford College, marches through the snow at Syracuse University and Middlebury College, creative engagement  at Yale University and Mt. Holyoke College, and many more are planned throughout the day. On a surprising note, Hampshire’s president Jonathan Lash snapped a photo with students wearing the orange square as his first public endorsement of fossil fuel divestment.


In the last year, fossil fuel divestment campaigns have sprung up on over 250 campuses nationally. However, as we move forward, we are expanding our scope beyond divestment and taking strides towards a just and inclusive climate movement. This means learning from the histories of those communities who have been confronting the dirty energy industry for decades, building coalitions with those who are most impacted by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and fostering local acts of resistance and solidarity.


Today, as students take action across the country, many of us will be wearing orange squares pinned to our chests. We have chosen to wear this symbol in solidarity with other student power movements internationally — most notably the Quebec Student Movement.


The red square of the Quebec Student Movement draws its origins from “carrément dans le rouge,” meaning “squarely in the red,” and refers to the condition of students trapped by immense debt. The red square was embraced by the 2005 student strike in Canada and became a symbol of solidarity for the student movement globally that signifies a belief in free education. “Institutional memory is critical to cultivating a lasting student power movement with graduation an ever present reality; sharing this symbol and the story of how this has grown is deeply a part of building that”, reflects Anthony Garoufalis-Auger a student from Concordia University, in Montreal.

In Quebec in 2012, as students marched through the streets, businesses would hang red squares in their front windows and many community allies wore them publicly. It is a powerful visibility tool that has become nearly ubiquitous in Canada and has fostered a sense of collective identity. Quebec students emphasize that it requires few resources to produce and is comprised of readily accessible materials. That being said, last year Quebec stores ran out of red fabric and cloth as the movement spread from classrooms to community spaces.

We have chosen the color orange, rather than green, to reframe our movement’s scope as much larger than an environmental issue. This is not a single-issue movement. This is a space where environmental justice, climate justice, and economic justice have come into contact. We understand that we will not win the fight against the dirty energy industry without confronting racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression in our movement spaces. The climate movement is still a young movement, but we understand our historical responsibility on an international scale.

“When we talk about the 11 or so million people who are undocumented, we need to remember that they’re mostly from the Global South. They have been divested of their language, their land, their wealth, and their climate by the global north. Migration under those circumstances in normal. Global south migration to the global north is the direct consequence of climate debt,” said Aura Bogado at last week’s student divestment convergence.

We are stronger as a movement when we recognize and celebrate the breadth of identities among us. The future of all our communities are bound together; tackling a problem of this magnitude requires both reciprocal communication and collaborative action. We must create a culture that breaks down systems of oppression while building up our collective power.

If this symbol of the orange square resonates with you, we urge you to claim it as your own. However, there are many signs of this collective struggle and we embrace all that speak for climate justice. Come to this struggle as you are, and join us as we work to create a just and thriving future.

Photo Credit: Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa and Zein Nakhoda

 
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Vanderbilt Guest Column: "Cultivating a sustainable endowment"

Sebastian Rogers and Ben Wibking of the Vanderbilt Responsible Endowment Campaign recently wrote a guest column celebrating their victory!  Vanderbilt divested from EMVest, a company accused of "land grabbing" in Mozambique and other countries.  Sebastian and Ben wrote,
This kind of coordinated action wouldn’t have been possible without serious student organizing. It has been one of the most inspiring experiences we have had here at Vanderbilt to see the amount of commitment our fellow students and friends put into the campaign because they cared about our impact on the rest of the world.
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Boston Globe: "New VP will scrutinize Harvard’s investments"

And now the Boston Globe reports:
Harvard University, which often faces pressure from students and alumni to shed controversial investments, has agreed to create a senior position at its investment management arm to consider the environmental, social, and corporate governance aspects of its holdings.
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Following student victories, Harvard seeks Vice President for Sustainable Investment

The Harvard Management Company announced they will hire a Vice President for Sustainable Investment.

This decision comes after a series of victories by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition.  Here's a bit of what The Harvard Crimson is reporting, including the reactions of student organizers:
Two weeks ago, five students met with members of the Harvard Corporation to discuss the details of the social choice fund, and earlier this week, a referendum to seed the social choice fund with money from Harvard’s endowment passed with 93 percent support of Harvard Kennedy School student voters.

Student members of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, which was involved in coordinating the two student referendums, expressed cautious optimism about the creation of the new HMC position.

“We were in general really pleased to see that the HMC is formally considering [environmental, social, and governance issues],” said Kevin S. Wang ’16, the investments and faculty coordinator of the Coalition.

Similarly, S. Krishna Dasaratha ’13, the Coalition’s treasurer, praised the move as an “indicator” that the University is listening to a rising chorus of student concerns about Harvard’s investment.

However, Wang and Dasaratha both said that the creation of the position, which primarily entails research on sustainable investment, does not necessarily mean that Harvard will commit to adjusting its investment strategies.

In the hopes of compelling HMC to change its investment practices, Wang said, “We’re pushing for action.”
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From The Nation

Oberlin's RIO began after a group of students attended REC's Summer Organizing Retreat.  They were featured in The Nation on February 15:

Moving Oberlin’s Money

In northeast Ohio, Oberlin College students from the Responsible Investing Organization are campaigning for community investment of college funds—and showing that endowment activism isn’t just about divestment. Along with Oberlin’s Student Finance Committee, RIO proposed and saw passed in December the Oberlin College and Community Investment Plan, a resolution to annually invest a percentage of the $1.2 million in the college’s Student Activity Fund as certificates of deposit with a local credit union. In September, RIO launched its "Break Up With Your Bank” campaign, an ongoing initiative to educate Oberlin students about financial institutions and encourage them to switch from big banks to local credit unions. Students are currently organizing a policy symposium for this spring that would bring together trustees, administrators and students to work together to write a comprehensive responsible investment policy, including community input and accountability.

—Responsible Investing Organization

Click here to read the other student dispatches from The Nation.
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Vanderbilt University Divests from 'Land Grab' in Africa

Vanderbilt University has taken steps to withdraw its $26 million investment in EMVest, formerly Emergent Asset Management, an agricultural corporation with farms in five sub-Saharan African countries, including Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe and whose investors included Harvard University. EMVest was accused of ‘land grabbing,’ or taking over agricultural land used by local communities through exploitative practices and using it for large-scale commercial export farming, by the Oakland Institute, a policy think-tank based in Oakland, California, in a June 2011 report publicized in the Guardian (UK). This historic divestment marks the first full divestment made by Vanderbilt in response to student pressure, a first in university history after its refusal to fully divest itself of funds operating in Apartheid-era South Africa.

Through its investment of tens of millions of dollars, Vanderbilt was one of the major investors in EMVest’s agricultural operations. The Oakland Institute’s report, based on first-hand field research and interviews and documents obtained from Emergent Asset Management itself, showed that villagers at one of the farms directly operated by EMVest did not consent to the land transfer or receive any legal written notice of the transfer from the community to the corporation, as well as that villagers were having more difficulty feeding themselves since the large-scale agriculture venture had taken over their lands and farms. The Mozambican farmers organization UNAC also reported that the people working for EMVest had issues with the payment of their wages. Furthermore, the Oakland Institute reported that contrary to promises of job development, EMVest created very few jobs, which were seasonal and low-paid in nature.

Following these allegations, students at Vanderbilt met with university administrators. Administrators refused to seriously discuss the matter with students, stating that  it was not ‘appropriate’ for students to be concerned with endowment issues. Students then organized demonstrations, including a sit-in at the main administration building on February 8, 2012. The student pressure for reform culminated in a nearly two-month long “tent city” in front of the administration building from March to May 2012.

An anonymous source in the Vanderbilt administration reports that university officials internally discussed the fact that the university has terminated its investment contract with EMVest and withdrawn all invested funds. However, the university has not publicly acknowledged its divestment. “Vanderbilt's divestment from Emergent Asset Management/Emvest is a testimony to the power of informed students who, despite the lies and stall tactics of the administration, have prevailed. Their leadership is an example to all that educational institutions, pension funds, and other investors who see smallholder farmers as dispensable and feel entitled to profit from the theft of developing countries' resources can be stopped by the power of truth,” said Anuradha Mittal, the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

Vanderbilt University has a $3.4 billion endowment, the 23rd largest of any university in the United States. Its divestment from EMVest marks the second time that the university has taken action in recent history in response to student concerns about investment ethics. The previous case involved HEI Hotels and Resorts, a private equity company that faced unfair labor practice charges, fines, and legal action for violations of labor law; Matthew Wright, the outgoing investment officer at Vanderbilt, made a written statement in January 2012, after students pressed administrators over the issue, that the university had no plans to reinvest in HEI.

“We are glad that Vanderbilt has done the right thing in this case and we hope that Vanderbilt will include students and other community stakeholders in further considerations of the ethical investment of our university’s endowment,” said senior Ben Wibking.

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The Vanderbilt Responsible Endowment Campaign was started in February 2012 in order to end investments in ‘land grabs’ and bring Vanderbilt University’s investments in line with its stated values of honesty, accountability, and caring. Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence, founded in 2007, is dedicated to social justice through raising consciousness, organizing our community, and developing a sustained activist infrastructure capable of responding to injustice on Vanderbilt’s campus and in the greater Nashville community.

The Responsible Endowments Coalition works to build and unify the college and university-based responsible investment movement, both by educating and empowering a diverse network of individuals to act on their campuses, and by fostering a national network for collective action. www.endowmentethics.org

Contact:

Zach Blume, Student Organizer, Vanderbilt Responsible Endowment Campaign
zach.blume@vanderbilt.edu / (401) 714-3118

Rose Espinola, National Organizer, Responsible Endowments Coalition
rose@endowmentethics.org / (347) 864-7633

For questions regarding the Oakland Institute’s research:

Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, The Oakland Institute
amittal@oaklandinstitute.org / (510) 469-5228

The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time. www.oaklandinstitute.org
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Oberlin Unites for Weekend of Student Power

"Weekend of Student Power" was the name given to a weekend packed with student activist trainings.  RIO, Oberlin's Responsible Investing Organization, started Saturday with a general interest meeting.

By the end of the Weekend of Student Power, RIO had created the blog Oberlin Unite. And Emily, a newcomer to RIO, had written up a blog post.  Here's an excerpt:

A Very Short Guide to How Oberlin Invests The Endowment ($670 million)
The Board of Trustees has an Investment Committee, which then chooses money managers to invest in equity funds through the college’s Investment Office. Currently, the policy of the Investment Committee is simply to invest in ways which yield the greatest financial returns.




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What RIO is working on this semester 

1. Get $50 million invested in Community Development Financial Institutions, which have a local and sometimes regional focus. Credit unions are an example of CDFIs.

2. Help select a new CFO who is committed to responsible investment.

3. Continue the Break Up With Your Bank campaign across campus

4. Hold a policy symposium, with members of the investment committee, faculty, students, and community members, to create a written commitment to responsible investment and possibly re/instate a committee to oversee the policy.

5. Make a Responsible Senior Contribution fund, to which graduating seniors could donate with the stipulation that it be used for responsible investments.

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