The University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors has requested that the Board of the UMW Foundation revise its investment policy to limit discretionary fossil fuel investments to a range of zero to four percent, with a target of two percent or less.
This move comes on the heels of a comprehensive study conducted by a special subcommittee of The President’s Council on Sustainability (PCS). President Richard V. Hurley, who requested the study, said the decision will give the Foundation board flexibility to achieve satisfactory returns on private funds that have been donated to the University for specific purposes, while still supporting UMW’s goal of being a recognized leader in the area of sustainability and environmental stewardship.
“The Board of Visitors takes seriously its fiduciary responsibility to protect the Foundation’s investment of UMW’s endowment,” said Rector Holly Cuellar. “At the same time, it is important that this University continue to be a leader on the sustainability front and that we remain vigilant in seeking additional ways to demonstrate our commitment to the environment.”
The PCS subcommittee, composed of students, faculty and two members of the Board of Visitors, conducted substantial research over the academic year. Its final report acknowledges that there is “a range of divestment possibilities” and recognizes the President and the Board of Visitors must “balance the need to respond to the climate crisis along with their financial responsibilities to students and the University.”
The subcommittee determined that complete divestment from fossil fuel funds presented practical challenges as well as the potential for a negative impact upon the Foundation’s investment portfolio.
At present, the guideline recommended by the UMW Board will have no immediate impact on the Foundation’s investment strategy. According to an investment analysis provided by the UMW Foundation, the June 30, 2016 projected carbon exposure in the “Carbon 200” companies is less than one percent.
The Board-approved range allows for future flexibility in the face of changing economic conditions. The performance of the Foundation portfolio and an assessment of the managers’ effectiveness in meeting the guideline are reviewed regularly by the Foundation Board and reported to the Board of Visitors, so that allocation adjustments may be considered.