There is a growing movement on university campuses across the country that has seen student groups engage, challenge, and at times square off with university administration over the investment policies in place at their schools. On January 17 Brock University’s administration took its first public stance on the issue when it released a Request for Proposals inviting financial firms to apply to be Brock’s new investment consultant. The RFP requires that any companies seeking to provide consulting services to the school submit, among other things, details about the firm’s “understanding, experience and application of socially responsible investing practices” as part of the evaluation and hiring process.
This is no token move on the part of the school; Brock’s investment portfolio, which includes the pension fund and the university endowment, totals approximately $434 million. Moreover, Brock is positioning itself to be one of the first to take a firm stance backed with binding policy on this issue. Very few schools have official documents that mention the issue; only York University explicitly mentions responsible and ethical investment in its investment principles.
Anneka Bosse, a member of the group as well as one of the founders of the Brock Fair Trade Club, sees a trend: “This is very exciting. By becoming a fair trade campus and taking this stance on investment, in the same school year, Brock is poised to be on the cutting edge with respect to progressive change.”
The requirement that applicant companies demonstrate understanding and experience with responsible investment practices came about as a direct result of the efforts of Brock’s own responsible investment group: Responsible Investing at Brock. Founded last semester, the group has been working to encourage the school to take a more vocal and active role in ensuring that its money is being invested in a socially responsible way.
While most responsible investment groups on Canadian university campuses focus on environmental issues – 350.org at UBC and Divest McGill are well-known – Brock’s takes a different approach, focusing on companies that commit human rights abuses. Jordan Nicolaides, a member of Responsible Investment at Brock, commented on the difference: “I think it’s also important to keep in mind that there is a great deal of intersectionality between these causes; companies that show a disrespect for the environment also frequently show a disrespect for the rights of human beings. We’ve just approached this from a different angle.”
Precious Omoruyi is one of the founding members of the group. She explained the group’s feelings on the RFP: “I think that this is a really impressive and important first step. Going forward we want to see, and are going to push for, the school to commit to a policy of ongoing engagement with this issue, which is why we are in the process of identifying companies with histories of human rights violations that Brock also invests in. Companies that hurt people don’t deserve Brock’s money, but right now, unfortunately, the current policy is allowing some of them to get it.”
For more information about Responsible Investing at Brock, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.