Dal board votes against fossil fuel divestment

November 27, 2014

Dalhousie University’s board of governors voted 15-5 to accept the recommendation of its investment committee against divesting the university’s holdings in companies judged to hold substantial carbon assets. Approximately $20.3 M of Dalhousie’s $486 M endowment is invested in such companies. George McLellan, Chair of the investment committee, said that the impact of divestment would have been considerable, affecting Dal’s participation in programs and research related to ocean and earth science, energy and sustainability, and engineering and management. “If we turn our back on a number of companies, why would they put money in here?” McLellan asked. The investment committee also said that divesting could subject the institution to higher transaction fees by limiting the diversity of its financial portfolio. Moreover, it said that it did not believe that divestment would have any meaningful effect on the behaviour of the companies in question. Members of the student group Divest Dal, who attended the meeting, vocally expressed their disappointment in the decision but vowed to continue to fight. Faculty at UBC recently voted to move forward on a referendum on fossil fuel divestment. Dal News Release | CBC News | Chronicle-Herald 


Postscript: December 1, 2014

Last week we reported that the Dalhousie University board of governors rejected outright divestment in fossil fuels, because of the implications for research and program funding, and the costs of increased transaction fees. The Dal board also endorsed the Investment Committee’s recommendation that the university investigate ways to allow donors to direct their endowments to environmentally-sustainable investments, and it committed to greater openness and transparency (through annual reporting) with regard to Dal’s endowment investments. In addition, Dal will continue to press fund managers to respect environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment principles. The committee’s report and the complete list of recommendations (on page 15) appears here.