Opinion

Loyola’s Moral Obligation to Divest from Fossil Fuels Outlined in Jesuit Values

Photo courtesy of Student Environmental Alliance

The Student Environmental Alliance (SEA), a Loyola student organization that promotes awareness of environmental issues, has diligently worked on the Sustainable Investment Portfolio (SIP) for five years with the Loyola administration.

The goal of the SIP is to work in conjunction with Loyola’s Board of Trustees to fully divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy and a sustainable future.

Divestment means removing stocks from a portfolio based on ethical and factual objections to certain business activities of a corporation. Intentional investing is selecting investment managers and directing endowment funds toward activities
and companies that align with an institution’s values.

Through extensive research and guidance from Loyola’s Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh and Chief Investment Officer Eric Jones, SEA has successfully brought the issue of fossil fuel investment to Loyola’s Investment Committee.

The committee is reevaluating its investment policies and their impact on the environment. In February 2016, the committee adopted a set of “Responsible and Sustainable Investing Principles” for Loyola’s official investment policy and
guidelines.

Also in that time, the university reduced its fossil fuel investments from 3.6 percent to 2 percent of its total endowment, according to a 2015 report from Jones.

We are grateful to the board for agreeing to partial divestment, and we continue to pursue more of our goals. However, the board unfortunately rejected full and immediate divestment.

As a Jesuit institution, Loyola has a moral responsibility to uphold its stated principles and mission with every decision it makes, including its investments.

Loyola students, professors and faculty constantly serve others and strive to increase equality in the world. In order to promote justice, we must make certain that we don’t cause injustice with our investments.

Fossil fuel usage degrades ecosystems, exacerbates climate change and negatively impacts the lives of others.

A letter addressed to Dr. Noah Sobe, president of the University Senate, stated, “Climate change is the greatest threat that the human race, and perhaps life on Earth, has ever faced. As the climate-driven catastrophes of the 21st century have
already shown, the effects of climate change disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable members of the global population.”

More than 150 faculty members across various departments at Loyola signed that letter.

Faculty support was crucial in securing cabinet approval to move forward on SEA’s GoSolar project, which aims to install solar panels on campus. Around the world, a transition to renewable energy is moving from rhetoric to reality. Loyola has
the ability to take part in expediting this transition.

Loyola can certainly make a powerful statement by divesting from fossil fuels. Its 2 percent holdings in fossil fuels equates to millions of dollars, considering that Loyola’s total endowment is more than $500 million and growing, according to
Jones.

At some point during a student’s attendance at Loyola, a student will learn the consequences of fossil fuel usage, whether it be through classes or events on campus.

Loyola has embedded this information into its curriculum — in UCSF and IES classes — to increase student awareness of environmental issues. How, then, can Loyola continue to invest in companies that invest in fossil fuel usage?

This actions goes against the Jesuit values and principles the university strives to instill in its students.

Loyola faculty and students have expressed their support for the environment and indicated Loyola’s obligation to advocate for its protection. Loyola’s 2016 Intent to Enroll Survey showed that 42.9 percent of incoming freshman rated
sustainability as being an “important” or “very important” reason to attend Loyola.

SIP and Plan 2020 emphasize Jesuit values and on-campus environmental sustainability. The implementation of Plan 2020 mentions sustainability as a key priority for the immediate growth of the university.

SIP’s mission is to make Loyola’s endowment an extension of the university’s social justice values and support companies that create a sustainable future, not destroy and pollute our planet.

SEA is grateful to the Loyola administration, especially the Investment Committee, for listening to our concerns about fossil fuel investment. It is a momentous accomplishment that the committee is considering environmental impact in its
investment practices.

But this consideration is not enough.

By fully divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy and eco-friendly companies, Loyola can join other universities in advancing a sustainable future.

Loyola must continue becoming a part of the solution; it should make decisions that best represent its values and the values of its students, just as students should consider how their actions reflect the university.

A sustainable, intentional endowment will demonstrate Loyola’s commitment to its Jesuit tradition, faculty and students.

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