Fossil fuel divestment
In a constantly changing society, victim of all effects of globalization, more and more actors of society want to have their voice heard. Now more than ever, ethical questions are put to the forefront. Social responsibility, for example, seem to wake the interest of a growing number of citizens, researchers, media, etc., in such a way that it appears more an more unavoidable for many private and public organizations, which are then obligated to show transparency in their daily activities.
Adapting to the influence and growing role of the financial sector, the concept of social responsibility has grown to another level to now incorporate what we call responsible investments (RI). Essentially, "responsible investment entails making investment decisions [...] that aim to improve corporate social behavior and corporate environmental stewardship."
Unfortunately, « research of profit too often brings businesses and investors to ignore social responsability ». If some universities have clearly taken a step ahead and decided to show the example, in such a way that RI are now considered part of the norm, McGill University, however, is still slow to take the shift, which goes in contradiction with its stride for leadership.
In response to the lack of change from McGill administrators and in accordance with the strong principles of justice and equity laid out in its Constitution, the SSMU as adopted a Motion Regarding Climate Justice at McGill, which express its commitment to the implementation of socially responsible investment strategies by the itself and by McGill University. It also emphasized "its belief that both bodies should divest their holdings in companies involved in the Canadian Tar Sands, in fossil fuel extraction, production, or distribution, or that do business or lobby to do business on native land without the full consent of the communities there."
In line with the ideas expressed in this motion, several steps have been taken throughout the years (petition, motions, protests, etc.) to put pressure on McGill administration to address environmental, social and economic problems by divesting its endowment from the fossil fuel industry (Divestment from companies is one of the strategies that can be used by responsible investors. When properly done, a divestment campaign can lead to major impacts on targeted companies). The SSMU has also been mandate by its council to work toward a McGill Free from Fossil Fuels (January 24, 2013), Ethical Investments at McGill (November 1, 2012) and for a Greener McGill (February 21, 2013).
In response to the pressure, McGill decided to include "grave environmental damage" as a social injury that could lead to divestment. The SSMU, jointly with Divest McGill, are still working to demonstrate that the fossil fuel industry is actually the cause of many grave environmental damages.
About Divest McGill
Divest McGill is a student led movement which is asking our universities and other institutions to stop investing in fossil fuels, on the basis that it is fundamentally immoral to be supporting such a destructive, carbon-intensive industry. Although only a couple of years old, there are already upwards of 600 campaigns across the globe- with several colleges and universities committing to divestment. Their efforts toward this goal and pressure on McGill administration led to change in the Ethical investment committee's their terms of reference.
For more information, visit Divest McGill's website.
 Commission des finances publiques (2002). « Responsabilité sociale des entreprises et investissement Responsable. Document de consultation », Assemblée nationale, Secrétariat des commissions, 24 pages.
Fossil Free AU