Universities Divesting in Fossil Fuels (part 2)

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.38.51Over the past year a growing number of student groups at schools from around the world have started up campaigns asking that their university divest from fossil fuels. Students, staff, faculty and alumni are coming together into groups that use a mix of open letters, petitions, debates, speaker series and events, film screenings, article writing, presentations, club meetings and online campaigns to mobilise their university around this topic. In part 1 we reviewed some of the background to this growing movement. Here in part 2 we will look at a selection of examples of what schools are doing in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.


The divesting movement began in the US with several hundred small- and medium-sized schools that have either already made commitments, or currently have strong student and staff movements pressuring them to do so. San Francisco State University committed to divest from coal and tar sands and set up a committee to explore full divestment. The University of Dayton committed to divestment in stages earlier this year of its USD$670 million investments pool. A number of larger universities in the US also have active campaigns including Stanford University, who announced earlier this year that it would make no direct investments in coal companies, and Harvard University, where faculty members have signed a letter to the dean urging the university to divest. The University of California Faculty Association recently urged the university’s Board of Regents to divest funds from fossil fuel companies (about USD$3 billion worth). The committee decided not to sell off stock holdings, but to have environmental and social issues more deeply influence investment decisions. A USD$1 billion plan was proposed to invest in direct solutions to climate change. In the US a growing number of cities have also decided to divest including Seattle, San Francisco and Portland.


At Dalhousie University, students and staff started a campaign called, “100 Days of Action,” aimed to pressure the university to divest its endowments from fossil fuel companies. They have delivered an extensive proposal to the university’s Investment Committee and are calling for a decision by the Board of Governors during their upcoming meeting at the end of November in relation to their CDN$470 million endowment fund. At Simon Fraser University the Faculty Association voted to develop a fossil-free pension fund option on the 7th of November, and faculty are currently preparing a letter to pension trustees expressing the will of the meeting. Faculty at the University of Victoria recently voted 66% in favour of divestment from fossil fuels in pension funds and endowment. Faculty, students and alumni were urged to sign an open letter calling for divestments, and are calling for a freeze on all new investments in fossil fuels in the university’s endowment fund. Concordia University, University of Guelph and Saint Mary’s University also have active campaigns underway.

United Kingdom

Over 50 campaigns have been launched across the UK to push institutions to divest from fossil fuels in the over GBP£5billion held in UK university endowment funds. After a year of campaigning by over 1,300 students and staff, the University of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to divest its entire GBP£129 million endowment of fossil fuels. Oxford University is currently conducting a staff consultation on divestment after 2,000 students and academics joined a divestment campaign. University of Surrey shifted funds from two unnamed fossil fuel companies into a renewable-energy-focused company. Additional campaigns are currently underway at the University of Exeter, the University of Portsmouth, the University of Reading and the University of Leeds.


The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra agreed to begin divesting AUS$16 million in seven fossil fuel companies. The decision was made based on a review of their Socially Responsible Investment, commissioned by the university to an outside research company, which was followed by a referendum showing 82% of ANU students supported the idea. The university’s decision was strongly condemned by the Prime Minister and other members of parliament, yet strongly supported by 50 prominent Australians, who put their names in an open letter published as a full-page newspaper advertisement in support of ANU’s decision. Inspired in part by the success of ANU, campaigns have started at other universities across Australia including La Trobe University. Monash University’s Fossil Free campaign has pressured the university to establish an investment advisory committee that could direct the university to divest from coal and gas. The University of New South Wales Student Representative Council recently voted in favour of fossil fuel divestment however the University Council voted overwhelmingly to hold on to fossil fuel assets because they believe that working closely with industry and government will have a greater impact in addressing climate change.


Is your school organising a divestment campaign? Should universities divest? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Creating a more Sustainable Campus: Water (part 2)

Water saving programmes at Griffith University

Griffith University

Water is one of the 7 critical issues being discussed at the upcoming Rio+20 summit in Brazil. According to the Rio+20 website, by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.

In a previous blog, we looked at how a growing number of campuses are choosing to Ban Water Bottles on Campus. In part 2 of this two part series, we look more broadly at a range of initiatives that business schools are taking part in to reduce the amount of water used on campus and raise awareness about issues relating to water.

Reducing water consumption

Griffith University encourages students to report dripping taps and water leaks to facilities management. The University also monitors, records and reports its water usage for the purpose of benchmarking and as a way to identify water saving opportunities. One of their campuses has 12 rainwater tanks that store over 200,000 litres of water, another building harvests water condensate from air conditioning to use in irrigation. Rainwater is harvested and used for toilet flushing in all new buildings.

The new building that houses the Walter E. Heller College of Business Administration at Roosevelt University is designed around “green” principles and is LEED-certified, which verifies use of sustainability principles in key performance areas, including site selection, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and indoor air quality. Illinois State University has installed multiple stormwater management features on campus, including a rain garden, two bioswales (designed to remove silt and pollution from runoff water) and three parking lots with permeable concrete. Grenoble Ecole de Management is implementing a range of water saving measures, including the use of reclaimed water in the sewage waste system and timed water faucets. Kyung Hee University School of Management green management practices include water-efficient landscaping in and around business school buildings and a rain-saving system in the school’s newest building.

Through the curriculum and research

The University of Wisconsin Whitewater provides a range of courses in the MBA programme focused on water issues, including one called Blue and Green Marketing, which looks at the effective marketing of water and other sustainability products and services. Babson College provides a course focused on sustainable entrepreneurship in Norway that focuses on drivers of opportunity in the energy domain and examines ways that new ventures are applying technologies in wind, water, solar and alternative fuel.

A wide range of case studies and research with a focus on water have also been developed by business schools around the world. At ISAE/FGV, a case study on cultivating a good water programme looked at the Itaipu Binacional, the largest dam in the world, situated on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

What is your campus doing to minimize the use of water? Share your projects in the comments area below.

Using Online Games to Teach Sustainability – Universities (Part 3)

As we saw in part 1 of this series on online games focused on sustainability and business, we see that games and simulations are a fun way to not only educate individuals about sustainability issues but also to help come up with some real solutions. In part 2, we looked at games that are being developed by leading businesses around the world. Now, in part 3, we look at games and simulations being developing by universities.

  • Climate CoLab is an online platform that seeks to harness the collective intelligence of contributors from all over the world to address global climate change. Teams submit proposals for a range of contests that are posted on the site. MIT, the developer of this platform, has also created a number of other multiplayer games. In Eclipsing the Competition: The Solar PV Industry Simulation participants play the role of senior management at SunPower, and need to compete against other firms, simulated by the computer and set the industry conditions. In Fishbanks: A Renewable Resource Management Simulation, participants play the role of fishers and seek to maximise their net worth as they compete against other players, deal with variations in fish stocks and their catch.
  • The University of Virginia developed the uva bay game, a large scale participatory simulation based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Players take the roles of stakeholders, such as farmers, developer, watermen and local policy-makers, and make decisions about their livelihoods or regulatory authority and see the impact of their decisions on their own personal finances, the regional economy and health of the watershed.
  • The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania created Tragedy of the Tuna, a game that aims to educate students about the concept of the “tragedy of the commons.” In this, game each student or group of students represent a county in control of a tuna fishing fleet and makes decisions about fleet size and deployment. As the game progresses, teams vie to stay afloat as competition for the shared fish population becomes more intense.

Do you use any games or simulations in your classes? Please share your experiences in the discussions area below.

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