University revises ethical investment policy

Michael Fotis - Interviews Editor 1 October 2009

Cambridge University has revised its position on ethical investment after pressure from students dissatisfied that the university does not ethically filter its investments.

An investigation by The Cambridge Student (TCS) in Lent 2009 revealed that fifteen colleges have no ethical guidelines in place for the management of their investments and that many of these invested in the arms trade.

The University has now updated its Statement of Investment Responsibility (SIR). This revision allows the University to balance “considerations of the ethical nature of investments” against its primary responsibility, maximising the financial return on University investments.

Although the SIR provides a framework through which the University can prohibit certain investments, a request for information made by TCS under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the university had not, as yet, chosen to ethically filter its investments.

A University spokesperson confirmed that since the revisions were made “there have been no occasions on which explicit decisions have been taken on this basis”.

Many students are not satisfied with these results and intend to continue campaigning.

CUSU’s Ethical Investment Officer, Bryony Hopkinshaw, told TCS that “whilst it is a testament to the hard work of student campaigning that the University agreed to review the statement at all, I am disappointed by the outcome. The SIR sounds worthy, but put the University under no obligation to make any actual changes.

“Whilst the University’s core values are listed as ‘freedom of thought and expression and freedom from discrimination, as well as concern for environmental sustainability’, in practice the policy continues to permit investments in industrial polluters and dealers of arms to repressive regimes. TCS’s Freedom of Information results confirm what I had suspected: that the new SIR is little more than a Greenwash.”

The CUSU led Ethical Investment campaign was launched in Michaelmas 2008. It received broad support via an online petition, and a protest organised attracted an estimated two hundred students.

Michael Fotis – Interviews Editor