To divest, or to not divest – that is the question

In early 2016, the University received a letter endorsed by 80 faculty members calling on it to divest from fossil fuels. Fourteen months later, Laurier’s Responsible Investment Working Group (RIWG) is distilling the results of written submissions and public consultations into a policy recommendation on responsible investing. Anticipating completion by mid-2017, the RIWG is certainly not the first tasked with such an undertaking, nor will it be the last.

Across Canada, universities are responding to the call to divest from carbon-heavy to climate-friendly alternatives. While divesting’s financial viability and advocacy effectiveness are frequently questioned by its opponents, proponents point out that the financial risks are not different than those of fossil fuel related portfolios, particularly in what is referred to as the ‘carbon bubble’. Further, supporters are calling on universities to embody their stated values of sustainability and support for future ethical economies.

Canadian universities are not alone in navigating the divesting waters; forty-three British universities have already begun moving out of fossil fuels. Nor is the way uncharted for Laurier’s RIWG as the University of Toronto’s response to and York’s Advisory Committee on Responsible Investment’s recommendations or divesting attest. The question of divesting ultimately lies in the will and willingness of the community considering it.

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