University endowments are major investors with over $400 billion in assets. Many schools have signed pledges for carbon neutrality, some have closed coal-fired plants that power their campuses, and others have vowed to end the university’s reliance on coal entirely. However, endowments with investments in coal-fired utilities are not aligned with their core values and sustainability commitments. Due to the excessive financial risks facing coal-fired utilities, they are also making a very poor economic investment choice (read more about this in “White Paper: Financial Risks of Investments in Coal”).
In order to focus the power of university endowments on these coal-fired utilities, As You Sow and a coalition of partner organizations is working to enable student shareholder advocates to press their endowments trustees to push utilities for a rapid transition to clean energy or to divest.
This program began with the development of an educational platform for students and alumni to demystify how university endowments function and how to press university trustees to disclose the holdings with full transparency. The students then educate their endowment committee members on the financial risks of coal investments, and press trustees to exert their influence on coal companies.
Currently, students at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign are working to align the values that their schools teach with their investments. By leveraging the power of these endowments, utility executives and boards of directors will be forced to consider the concerns over coal risk as they make critical decisions about the future of powering America.