Fossil fuel divestment

Monday 27 January 2020

Concerned about climate change and the role fossil fuels play in it, Balliol’s students asked the College to consider divesting from fossil fuel companies.

In response the College examined ways of continuing to achieve good investment returns while restricting, as far as possible, exposure to fossil fuel holdings — working with its Investment Committee and key fund managers, and in consultation with student representatives. As a result, the College has decided upon a reduction of its Endowment’s fossil fuel exposure (FFE), as far and as fast as is practicable.

While continuing to fulfil its fiduciary duty to achieve the best return on in its investments, Balliol will take a number of steps in order to achieve an immediate effect. These steps, which include selling some holdings and making alternative investments where necessary, will achieve what Chair of the Investment Committee Richard Collier describes as ‘a significant reduction in the College’s fossil fuel investments’: from approximately 2.4% of its total Endowment to a target of less than 1%. They apply to extractors and not necessarily to oil service companies or drilling equipment manufacturers. The College will also seek to further reduce its FFE further over time.

In parallel, Balliol already has an environmental policy but the College is working with the students on a climate change action plan which will set a number of challenging targets, with a timescale, in relation to the environmental impact of College operations in areas such as energy, waste and food.

The Development Committee has also endorsed a restriction on the College accepting donations from FFE companies.

Balliol Divestment Campaign (a student group comprising representatives from both the JCR and the MCR) commented: ‘We’re thrilled that Balliol has decided to align itself with a just and sustainable future, and has realised that such a future is incompatible with the continued burning of fossil fuels. This decision is a significant financial move, a powerful message of solidarity with front-line communities and a recognition that continuing to profit from the climate crisis is morally unacceptable. We look forward to seeing more and more institutions take this step and join the growing divestment movement.’