Fort Lewis College announced Monday a portion of its investments – about $7.8 million – will be vetted annually for its impact on humanity and the environment.
Students have been advocating since spring for a policy that takes into account environmental and societal consequences of the school’s investments, said Marty Pool, coordinator of the FLC Environmental Center. It’s a trend that has been happening nationwide among institutions of higher education.
“The fact that there is going to be some reporting on this is a huge step,” he said. Scoring of investments will likely inform future student action, he said.
The FLC Board of Trustees unanimously supported the reviews that will examine investments based on environmental, social and governance factors, according to a news release. For example, the investments will be reviewed to see if they are supporting clean technology, conservation, human rights and community development.
The reviews will apply to the 20% of FLC’s investment portfolio that the school controls directly. The rest of the school’s investments are controlled by the Colorado State Treasurer, according to a news release. The investments controlled by the school totaled $7.8 million as of December, said FLC spokeswoman Lauren Savage.
Student advocates fought for a similar change in 2014 when they asked the Fort Lewis College Foundation to divest from its fossil fuel investments. At the time, fossil fuel investment constituted 0.8% of the $17.2 million the foundation had invested. The foundation declined to divest saying it would be a token gesture with no real impact and it would be hypocritical to drop fossil fuels when the college asked gas and oil companies for contributions during fundraising campaigns, board members said at the time.
The new FLC policy requiring reviews does not direct divestment from investments and it does not apply to the FLC Foundation.
The school’s investments in diversified funds would make divestment difficult, Pool said. But the reviews can function as a tool to identify funds with screening criteria for what they will and won’t invest in, he said.
One of the students who advocated for the changes, Jazzmin Matchette, said the reviews are a good step but she expects more action will be needed.
“Becoming conscious of where we invest our money as an institution is a great starting point for these efforts. However, with the United Nations reporting that we have less than 10 years to prevent the Earth from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius, more direct action to reduce our carbon footprint as an institution may be necessary soon,” Matchette said in a news release.