Image Credit: Bill Wilson

Oxford among 60 Universities seeking sustainable investment opportunities

Sixty UK Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have put forward a “request for proposals” (RfP) aimed at finding more environmentally sustainable investment opportunities. The proposal is seeking companies with the capacity to “create a market for cash products that do not contribute to the financing of fossil fuel expansion.” 

The RfP states that the co-signed Higher Education institutions, including 8 individual Oxford Colleges, “may each allocate up to several hundred million GBP or more across several products proposed by the respondents to this Request for Proposals.” Such investments will come in the form of deposits and money market funds, which are a type of mutual fund highly desired for their low risk and high liquidity.

The stated primary goal of the RfP is to “avoid financing companies that are constructing new coal- and gas-fired power plants in OECD countries.” The stipulations for investments include meeting the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, among other criteria such as “financing of renewables in lower income countries.” 

Cambridge’s Chief Financial Officer, Antony Odgers, explained that the RfP is aimed mostly at companies which “may have products, strategies, and/or commitments that have not yet launched”.

This RfP comes at a time where University’s across the UK are under major pressure to divest from fossil fuel markets. Last week, The Oxford Student reported that Oxford had increased its investments in fossil fuels to 31.2 million in 2022, despite a 2020 pledge to ban direct investments in fossil fuels. 

The 2020 pledge followed mounting student pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies, including demonstrations at the 2018 boat race in which a banner was dropped reading Oxbridge Divest accompanied by orange smoke flares. When announcing the pledge in 2020, Oxford described itself as a “world leader in the battle against climate change.” 

However, environmental group Students Organising for Sustainability has criticised the ambiguous use of language in “direct investments”, as well as highlighting that this divestment pledge doesn’t apply to External Asset managers, who make investments to generate profit on the university’s behalf. Despite the 2020 pledge, climate protests have continued across Oxford, including the Radcliffe Camera being painted orange by Just Stop Oil protesters in October 2023.

The University declined to further comment on the matter.

Image Credit: Bill Wilson

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