500 signatures reached
To: University of Cambridge and constituent colleges
Open letter to the University of Cambridge and Colleges
[Cambridge Members: please sign the petition through Raven, at http://www.green.cusu.cam.ac.uk/campaigns/ethicalinvestment/petition.html]
The University of Cambridge and Colleges have a total endowment of around £4.9bn1. This is invested in companies without consideration of their potential abuse of international law, degradation of the environment, labour exploitation, perpetuation of conflicts and the erosion of human rights. The global impact of these investments is irreconcilable with the University's positive contributions to society through education and research.
We call on the University of Cambridge and its constituent Colleges to adopt socially and environmentally responsible investment practices in line with the principles of the University, whose stated aim is to "contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence."2 While we are aware it may pose particular challenges, the implementation of a responsible investment strategy is nonetheless not opposed to principles of maximizing financial performance.3
We, the undersigned, support Positive Investment Cambridge's demands, and call on the University and Colleges to explore and implement alternative investment strategies that incorporate social, environmental, corporate governance, and financial concerns.
We write as University of Cambridge students, faculty, staff, affiliates, non-resident members/alumni and other concerned individuals, in association with Positive Investment Cambridge.
 See the discussion paper released August 2011 prepared for a global peer exchange on ESG criteria entitled Responsible Investment's Second Decade: Summary Report on the State of ESG Integration, Policy, and Reporting. http://www.calpers.ca.gov/eip-docs/investments/video-center/view-video/mercer-report-second-decade.pdf
Why is this important?
From our work and engagement with students from diverse political backgrounds, we recognize that students unerringly want to see a lucrative, prosperous endowment. They also express a significant commitment to seeing this endowment undergirded by principles. They find it important that the University’s investments are aligned with the University’s mission to “contribute to society” and the University’s core values such as the “concern for sustainability and the relationship with the environment”.
Students continually assert that the University has a responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of its investments, and although the University’s primary aim is to contribute to society through education and research, the companies the University invests in might both directly and indirectly counteract these contributions.
On a broader note, we believe the relationship between our finances and global issues needs to be further discussed. As an example, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has called upon public institutions around the world to expand their understanding of fiduciary duties, and to recognize the carbon impact of their investments. We feel that Cambridge University, as one of the world’s leading academic institutions, should think very carefully about its duties as a global institution and the message it sends out when it ignores such calls.
While we are not here today to argue which specific companies or sectors are responsible or irresponsible, we strongly believe that there needs to be a wider and more open discussion about how the University can improve the social and environmental impact of their investments. We want to see a more extensive review process which is open to result in a change in the investment policy and practice making Cambridge University one of the leading investors regarding both the financial returns and the social and environmental impact of their investments.
How it will be delivered