Australian National University’s decision to divest from some companies due to concerns mainly related to environment or carbon pollution. The decision has sparked fury from some business and political interest groups.
Responding to the allegations, Professor Ian Young wrote on ANU’s website and The Sydney Morning Herald.
According to Mr. Young :
Just over a week ago, The Australian National University decided to sell shares worth approximately $16 million in seven companies, representing just one per cent of our investment portfolio, and a fraction of the market worth of the companies involved, which has sparked an extraordinary reaction.
From one side it has been attacked by elements of industry, media and some political figures as reckless, cowardly, superficial, anti-business, poorly conceived and as destroying jobs.
On the other side, my email account has melted down with emails of support, congratulating the University on its action, and the University’s Facebook page is awash with positive comments.
The reason for this extraordinary response is because the ANU decision is seen as another domino in the divestment-movement effect, involving individuals and institutions deciding to sell their holdings in fossil fuel-producing companies.
He further said:
There has been growing sentiment from our community to not just get a good financial return from our investments but also to invest in companies which would have activities consistent with the goals of the University, and do not manifestly cause social harm. For instance, the University for many years has not, and would not now, invest in tobacco
The initial calls were to divest from all fossil fuels. This is difficult in Australia, as many of our companies are diversified. They may produce coal, oil or gas but they also do many other things. And given the world’s necessary dependence on such fuels for a long time to come, the ethical issues involved are complex. To address these issues ANU established a socially responsible investment policy.
Not only Mr. Young conveyed his view point on the criticism but also provided a broad picture about the debate:
The real debate for Australia should be about jobs in a carbon-constrained world. What will our industries be in 20 or 30 years’ time? I am confident they will not be in producing fossil fuels. Australia should not be an adopter of alternative energy, we should be a producer.
The real debate in climate should be about producing cost-effective alternative energy. Sticking our collective heads in the sand and ignoring a changing world will ensure we do destroy jobs. Universities like the ANU should be the powerhouses to produce the new technologies for such a world.
The key here is for the various parties not to go to their collective corners and throw stones, but rather for us to work together and use the window of transition to ensure Australia is a technological leader in the post-carbon world.
In an email to Alumni, The ANU VC also urged former students to take part in the debate and give their views:
As you may be aware, last week the University Council decided to sell a relatively small number of shares in seven companies. The decision has sparked an extraordinary reaction. I’ve written about the matter in an Op Ed published today.
ANU invests for the betterment of its community – students, staff and researchers. The returns on these investments fund scholarships, staff salaries, research projects and new infrastructure. The University has a responsibility to invest wisely but also in a manner consistent with the desires of our stakeholder students, alumni and staff.
To this end, the decision to divest was made after a review commissioned as part of our Socially Responsible Investment Policy. The review was undertaken by the independent Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER) and provided Environmental, Social and Governance Ratings on ANU-held domestic stocks. Using an internationally recognised methodology, our investments were assessed against environmental, social and governance criteria.
The ANU community – staff, students and alumni – has been very engaged in the debate about divestment. As the national university, we have a role to play in national and global debates of this kind.
As always, I welcome your views.
Professor Ian Young AO
The main post is available on ANU website link: http://vcdesk.anu.edu.au/2014/10/13/time-to-move-to-a-post-carbon-world/#comment-8291