Oxford University reinforces investment policy on fossil fuels

18 May 2015

Oxford University has announced new measures to bolster oversight of environmental factors in its investment policy.

Today’s additional measures follow a review responding to a call from Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) for the University to consider fossil fuel divestment. The University has also reaffirmed its commitment to avoiding direct investment in coal and tar sands companies – a key request from OUSU.

The University Council, Oxford’s executive governing body, has concluded that robust mechanisms are already in place to ensure environmental factors are considered when investment decisions are made. Given the importance of carbon emissions and climate change to society, however, Council has also called for the level of engagement and public reporting on these issues to be strengthened.

Council has therefore asked Oxford University Endowment Management (OUem), which manages the £2bn Oxford Funds on behalf of 28 collegiate University investors, to:

  • continue to avoid direct investments in coal and oil sands companies, of which it currently has none, and also avoid investment in sectors with high social and environmental risks.
  • continue with the inclusion of a range of other energy investments with the Oxford Funds. Council’s Investment Committee, which sets policy for OUem, will report annually on OUem’s voting decisions and engagement with fund managers across all sectors.
  • continue to improve its reporting on and communication of its investment strategy, including in its Annual Report and on its website.

Ouem is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. As such, it has access to the latest research in monitoring carbon exposure in investments. Ouem is also in regular contact with fund managers on a range of issues, including environmental concerns, giving it a greater understanding of the Oxford Fund’s sector exposure. It will now start publishing a full breakdown of these sector exposures, including the energy sector, in its annual report and on its website.

In addition the University’s Environment Sustainability team will be asked to report annually on carbon usage of sample groups of university members and on the progress towards institutional carbon emissions targets.

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: ‘We are extremely grateful to Oxford University Student Union and everyone who has contributed to an important University-wide debate on this issue.

‘Oxford University is already a leading force in the global fight against climate change, principally through outstanding research which influences technological development, business practice and policy formation around the world. We see the main purpose of our investment fund as generating the financial resources to support our academic purpose. However, our investment managers take a long-term view and take into account global risks, including climate change, when considering what investments to make. The University believes that approach to be the right one and today’s decision reinforces it by encouraging greater engagement and reporting on this crucial issue to the environment and all of society.’

For more information please contact Stephen Rouse, University of Oxford News and Information Office on 01865 280533 or stephen.rouse@admin.ox.ac.uk .

Notes to editors:

Further information on today's decision can be found at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/fossil-fuel-divestment 

 The Oxford Funds
The Oxford Funds exist to invest gifts donated to the collegiate University for the purposes of education and research, for beneficiaries today and in the future. The University is the legal trustee of The Oxford Funds. It makes investment policy decisions on behalf of its 28 investors, all of whom are members of the collegiate University. They comprise the Oxford Endowment Fund and the Oxford Capital Fund and have a combined current value of £2 billion.

OU Endowment Management (OUem)
OU Endowment Management is investment manager to The Oxford Funds, an investment vehicle which allows the collegiate University of Oxford to pool its charitable gifts and invest them as one. The Oxford Funds currently holds £2bn of charitable endowment assets, from 28 investors across the University, including: 22 colleges, 5 collegiate charities and the central University’s endowment. OUem is wholly owned by the University of Oxford and regulated by the FCA and works within a robust system of governance and oversight. Further details of its investment approach and Governance Policy can be found at www.ouem.co.uk.