Board of Trustees Votes to Divest From Fossil Fuels
We must be more than pioneers by name, we must be pioneers by nature. Lewis & Clark President Wim Wiewel
The Lewis & Clark College Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to divest from all fossil fuel holdings in the endowment, approving the recommended policy changes prepared by a subcommittee formed to study the matter.
“When national politics are aggressively undermining U.S. commitments to fight climate change, it is up to local jurisdictions and institutions like ours to lead,” said Lewis & Clark President Wim Wiewel. “I applaud the trustees for their action today. We must be more than pioneers by name, we must be pioneers by nature.”
Passing the resolution after multiyear conversations and study, the trustees affirmed that Lewis & Clark could simultaneously meet the critical objectives of best-in-class endowment management as well as environmental leadership. “This is the right direction, this is the right way for us to go,” said Trustee Amy L. Miller BA ’80 at the Board’s Investment Committee meeting last Friday.
“Lewis & Clark is deeply committed to all aspects of sustainability: learning, innovation, and principled action, so aligning our investments with our intentions is integral to those commitments,” said Chief Investment Officer Carl Vance, who spearheaded the analysis of divestment best practices that informed the new policy guidelines. Vance also serves on the national executive committee of the Intentional Endowments Network.
Lewis & Clark’s fossil fuel divestment policy now includes these guidelines:
Lewis & Clark’s endowment shall not directly own any securities publicly issued by companies in the fossil fuel industry, specifically the largest owners of coal, oil, and natural gas reserves (“fossil fuel companies”).
Starting immediately, Lewis & Clark will make no investments in any new fund that has exposure to fossil fuel companies.
Over the next five years (before Dec. 31, 2022) Lewis & Clark will eliminate exposure to fossil fuel companies held indirectly through public commingled strategies. In addition, the college will exit all private limited partnership investments holding fossil fuel companies as they mature, which will take more than five years.
Consistent with the college’s existing ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] policy, Lewis & Clark will actively engage with existing investment managers to encourage them to adopt fossil fuel free investment options.
Lewis & Clark will provide an annual update to the broader campus community on holdings of fossil fuel securities in the endowment portfolio.
Student activism played a significant role in driving dual senses of urgency and gravity.
“Members of the Lewis & Clark community have been pushing for the college to divest from fossil fuels since 2012, so a significant number of students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be celebrating the Board’s recent decision,” said Evelyn Hunsberger BA ’19, a physics major and coleader of the student group SEED (Students Engaged in Eco-Defense). “SEED is extremely pleased that the divestment subcommittee’s recommendation addressed all of our petition’s requests. This is encouraging news on both the small scale, for Lewis & Clark as an institution, and also in terms of the global fossil-free movement. Hopefully other colleges will follow suit, and the movement will continue to grow.”
Lewis & Clark is grounded in a mission to cultivate global thinkers and leaders. We build on the best available scholarship and practice—recognizing the importance and interrelatedness of ecology, economy, and equity—to extend our research and actions beyond our campus and into the wider world.
In 2017, for the sixth year in a row, Sierra Club’s Sierra magazine named Lewis & Clark one of its top five “Cool Schools.” Lewis & Clark was the only liberal arts college on the West Coast—and the only school in Oregon—to make the top ten. In 2015, Lewis & Clark nabbed the top spot on Princeton Review’s “Green Colleges” list.