Op-Ed: Sustainability Committee Issues Statement Supporting Sustainable Investment Policies

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

After meeting with Mountain Justice on Monday and discussing our research and our campaign, the Swarthmore College Sustainability Committee came to consensus on the following statement on Wednesday morning, April 25th:

“The college’s investment decisions are part of the overall sustainability of the college. As the college values sustainability, responsible investment should be part of the college’s sustainability plan. Shareholder engagement, active investment, and screening are all legitimate forms of investment responsibility. Context determines which form is most sustainable and responsible in a particular circumstance.”

Without explicitly endorsing our campaign, SusCom, an official administrative body of the college, endorsed the values that guide our work in MJ. This statement is a strong endorsement of critical engagement with college investments in order to achieve true sustainability, exactly what we have been campaigning for over the course of the past year. The committee also agreed to form a subcommittee next fall specifically to research the socially responsible investing practices of peer institutions and to make more detailed recommendations regarding the principles stated above.

Time and again, the administration has told us that they “don’t do” divestment, because they believe shareholder resolutions to be the most effective form of investor responsibility. SusCom has just challenged that philosophy, and it’s time for other administrative bodies to take heed and start considering alternative forms of responsible investment as well.

One thing that we have appreciated in our meetings and conversations with SusCom is their commitment to two-sided conversations with student groups and their receptiveness to our proposals. Although historically many administrative bodies have not been receptive to student suggestions, we would like these meetings with SusCom to serve as a precedent for future meetings between students and administrators, meetings where both sides go in with an open mind and a willingness to listen.

SusCom’s statement comes the week before Mountain Justice’s meeting with the Social Responsibility Committee of the Board of Managers. The timing is no coincidence. We hope that the SRC comes to see that investment is a part of social responsibility, and divestment is part of investment responsibility. We further hope to see the same respect for student voices and attention to student concerns from the Board of Managers that we have seen in our meetings with SusCom.


  1. On behalf of the Sustainability Committee, I write to clarify that at our meeting on Monday SusCom did not endorse the specific divestment proposal by Mountain Justice. Members of the Committee in attendance did agree broadly in discussion that the College’s investments should be considered part of its footprint in the world (carbon and otherwise), and that sustainability should include economic, environmental, and social equity considerations. We intend to investigate further the issue of investments and their ramifications in more detail in the Fall, and no vote or attempt to reach consensus on any proposal will be taken before adequate due diligence has been ensured.

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