Universities use position as investors to call time on greenwashing

9 November 2021

A new net zero declaration has been launched by UK-based asset owners calling for minimum climate standards from their investment managers.

Launched to coincide with the second week of COP26, the COP26 Declaration has been orchestrated by Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK) as part of the Invest for Change campaign, alongside Friends Provident Foundation, and in partnership with the Charities Responsible Investment Network (CRIN) and Responsible Investment Network – Universities (RINU).

The declaration has the support of 10 of the UK’s leading universities and 16 charitable foundations, including Jesus College Cambridge, St Anne’s College Oxford, University of Bristol, University of Reading, University of Sussex, University of the West of England, WWF and Barrow Cadbury Trust.

With universities holding £15 billion in investments, the initiative is calling on their investment managers to leading the way in driving a sustainable economy and fairer society, and take the urgent action needed to address the climate and ecological emergency being faced. It sets out eight minimum standards that investment managers should implement to make genuine progress on climate, and commits the 26 signatories to engaging with their managers to drive this.

Professor Julie Sanders, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Newcastle University – one of the founding signatories, commented: “We know that the social and environmental impact of the University’s investments is of great importance to our students and colleagues. We are committed to reducing the carbon intensity of our investment portfolio and realising opportunities to have a positive contribution to the net zero transition through our investment decisions. Supporting this declaration strengthens the basis on which we continue to engage with our fund managers on the urgent action needed to respond to the climate and ecological crises.”

Colin Baines, Investment Engagement Manager, Friends Provident Foundation, said: “The variance in standards from asset managers making similar climate commitments and claims is huge. As asset owners, we wish to send a strong market signal and draw a line on greenwashing by establishing a baseline to judge them against. For example, we expect managers that claim to support the Paris climate agreement or net zero targets to vote in favour of aligned shareholder resolutions. It is incredulous that so many managers vote against their stated climate objectives, often more than they vote for them.”

To read the full declaration visit www.cop26declaration.uk