BOSTON – Continuing the University of Massachusetts community’s leadership on climate change, the UMass Foundation announced today that it will divest from direct investments in coal companies. The Foundation also said that it will continue to evaluate ways to manage the endowment in a manner that promotes both environmental sustainability and socially responsible investing. The Foundation oversees $770M in endowment assets for the UMass System.
“We believe this action sends an important message about the urgency of climate change and the University community’s commitment to addressing it,” said Charles J. Pagnam, executive vice president of the UMass Foundation. “At the same time, our policy protects the Foundation’s primary mission of maximizing the investment returns on funds donated for research, academic programs, financial aid and other purposes.”
The divestment decision is the latest in a series of steps that the Foundation has taken to adopt socially responsible investing practices, including formally incorporating into its investment policies Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria, establishing a Social Choice Endowment option for donors, and becoming a signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which provides a global system for organizations to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.
The steps the Foundation is taking on divestment are consistent with the leading role the University has played in addressing climate change through research, academic programs, student engagement and its own energy policies. In 2007, for example, the University President and all five campus Chancellors signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Since then, UMass has succeeded in reducing its carbon emissions by an average 4 percent per year.
The divestment decision by the Foundation Board of Directors followed a deliberative process that began with the creation of a Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee in November 2014 to serve as a forum in which social investment issues such as environmental sustainability could be raised, discussed and reviewed. The eight-member Committee is made up of faculty, administrators, alumni and students.
In March, the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign submitted a formal petition asking the Foundation to divest. Before making a recommendation to the Board, the Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee met with representatives of the Campaign and researched the issue over several months. Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the Board voted to divest from investments in coal.
About the UMass Foundation
The UMass Foundation is a private, non-profit corporation founded in 1950 to foster and promote the growth, progress and general welfare of the University of Massachusetts, recently ranked as the No. 1 public university in New England in the World University Rankings. The Foundation provides a depository for charitable contributions to UMass, manages the University’s endowment, promotes private support of public higher education, and supports the fundraising efforts of the five UMass campuses – UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School.