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Sustainable Investments Task Force Recommendations

Following are the recommendations the SITF sent to the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Investments. The Committee on Investments will be meeting with the SITF on March 14 to discuss these recommendations.

Recommendations from Sustainable Investments Task Force

Per resolution of the Board of Trustees dated May 5, 2013, the Sustainable Investments Task Force (SITF) was created, and charged with the following:

  • Managing the investigation – by parties on Dickinson’s campus and off – of the merits and drawbacks of divestment from fossil fuels.
  • Coordinating a process of community conversation and education that offers all stakeholders and constituencies a chance at thoughtful, meaningful engagement with this issue.
  • Making a recommendation to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees on further action related to the question of divesting the endowment from fossil fuels.

After seven months of discussion and deliberation, SITF has reached consensus on the following, which we offer as our findings and recommendations to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees:

  1. Sustainability is a defining dimension of Dickinson College.  SITF recognizes that continued reliance on fossil fuels as a major energy source poses grave risks from global climate change. In consequence, investment of Dickinson’s endowment in the fossil energy sector is in tension with the College’s commitments to sustainability and climate change action.
  2. Investments in fossil fuels comprise approximately 4% of the college’s pooled endowment; and, investments in the largest 200 fossil fuel companies comprise approximately 1% of the college’s pooled endowment.
  3. SITF recommends that the Investment Committee and the Board of Trustees not proceed with divesting Dickinson’s endowment from fossil fuel interests at this point in time.  Investure has made clear that, due to the pooling of funds of all Investure clients, and the nature of Investure’s relationships with the fund managers with which it works, it is not possible to divest an individual client from fossil energy, and a decision by Dickinson to divest would necessarily require that Dickinson leave the Investure consortium.  Investure currently provides Dickinson with the best opportunity for achieving superior returns on its endowment funds.  Our returns with Investure over the past ten (10) years have consistently been in the top quartile or decile of all institutions reporting to NACUBO.  SITF also recognizes the importance of the Investure structure and management to the success of our endowment in recent years and the complexity/risk/ cost involved with divestment.
  4. SITF recommends that Dickinson College communicate to Investure the tension fossil fuel investments (particularly investments in companies which are heavily engaged in coal and non-conventional fossil energy) cause for the college’s investment portfolio and our ongoing desire to choose investments that better support our sustainability values. In stating this, we recognize Investure’s need to consider the preferences of all of their clients and overall investment returns. 
  5. SITF recognizes and encourages Investure’s commitment in working to build a larger sustainable investments portfolio and to working with the college to align our investments with the sustainability values of the college.  SITF recommends that the Investment Committee give strong consideration to increasing Dickinson’s investment in Investure’s Sustainable Investments Fund.
  6. Additionally, SITF recognizes and appreciates Investure’s communication and candor in addressing the divestment question and that of sustainable investing more broadly. SITF encourages continuation of these communications as Investure invests resources and broadens their commitment to sustainable investing. We recommend that a structured dialogue and exchange of ideas take place with interested parties at client institutions.  Questions posed in these conversations should include:  a) How do we define a sustainable investment?; b) What is the most effective structure and process for continuing discussions with the college community, Investure, and other Investure clients?
  7. SITF recognizes that Dickinson does hold a unique and differentiating position in advancing sustainability through an integrated approach across the institution.  SITF therefore recommends that the All College Planning and Budget Committee, the administration and the trustees give priority to building our position and our role as an institution focused on sustainability.
  8. SITF recommends the implementation of a Sustainability Revolving Credit Fund, a tool to generate and reinvest savings to meet the college’s commitment to climate neutrality by 2020, as outlined in Dickinson College’s climate action plan.
  9. SITF recommends that Dickinson College explore joining or establishing relationships with organizations which promote sustainable investing, with the aim of better educating the Dickinson community.
  10. SITF urges the Investment Committee to continue to articulate and further clarify Dickinson’s criteria for reconciling its investment activities with its social and environmental values, ultimately incorporating these concepts into the college’s investment policy.

Our findings and recommendations respond to the charges given to SITF by the Board of Trustees, which focus on divestment of the College's endowment from fossil energy. But in the course of our deliberations, many questions have been raised that reach beyond the charges given to us to address broader responsibilities and actions of Dickinson College with respect to the challenge of global climate change. Many of the questions are motivated by a desire for Dickinson to work with others in altering the political landscape in ways that result in meaningful actions to combat climate change at local, state, national and international levels. This is Dickinson at its best, and we encourage members of the Dickinson community to take up this important challenge.