by Truzaar Dordi, June 5, 2018
Good afternoon and happy World Environment Day. My name is Truzaar Dordi and I’m here today representing Fossil Free UW, a group of students advocating for the University to divest their pensions and endowments from the fossil fuel industry. I have met with a few of you over recent months, so thank you for involving us through this process and for letting me speak to you today. Although the recommendation is not in our favour, we truly commend the diligence and rigor that the Responsible Investment Working Group has taken in preparing this report.
At this point in time, we are disheartened to see the recommendation from the Working Group reject the call for divestment at any level. We believe the University is well positioned to be a leader in this field. I believe one point of contention between our groups is the perception that divestment is still a form of ethical screening – it is not. The research we have shared with the Working Group overwhelmingly presents divestment as a financially favourable strategy. I hope that this is one point that we can gain consensus on down the line. We are also disappointed to hear that the Board denied the Faculty Association’s request for an extension to gather feedback on the report. I fear that this unwavering stance will leave students and faculty displeased.
On the other hand, I am optimistic that the University will take a proactive approach to responsible investing, through the adoption of the UNPRI. With the right indicators and appropriate tests, I’m sure you’ll see that there is a clear ethical and financial case to systematically decrease investments with high carbon exposure, in the fossil fuel sector and other industries. Please do not overlook the fossil free group as uniformed protestors or activism – we are all experts in the fields of energy policy, health, environment, and sustainable finance. We have world renowned scholars at the University who are willing to advance this agenda, so please do utilize their expertise.
If the board elects to support the recommendation of the Working Group, and reject our call for divestment, we hope that you choose to take a path of engagement. Engage with your investment managers and use your influence to push for aggressive measures. Today’s decision is just the beginning of a major transformation in how we manage our money.