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AU Eliminates Public Fossil Fuel Investments from Endowment
As part of its comprehensive commitment to sustainability, American University has divested all of its public fossil fuel investments from its endowment.
April 22, 2020: American University has divested all of its public fossil fuel investments from its endowment. While AU had no direct investments in fossil fuel funds for several years prior to the announcement, the Board of Trustees eliminated the remaining $12.9 million of fossil fuel exposure within the public endowment portfolio. This action was executed through the sale of $350 million in commingled and index funds, with the proceeds reinvested in investments that do not include any fossil fuel holdings.
The board and university leadership have actively considered issues related to fossil fuel investments since 2014, when they established a Fossil Free Investment Fund within the university’s endowment. And over the last couple of years, AU has been carefully divesting its public endowment portfolio. Removing investments in fossil fuels required that the university ensure that any new investment vehicles had comparable performance and fees (if not lower fees) to those of the prior fossil fuel investments. AU currently has no Carbon 200 companies in its private investment portfolio but may at some point have small and short-lived positions.
Making these changes allows the university to fulfill its commitment to students, who are passionate and effective advocates for sustainability, and the entire AU community. Read the full divestment announcement here.
A Sustainable Community
American University seeks to create a culture of sustainability on campus. The university demonstrates its values through its commitment to social responsibility, service, and an active pursuit of sustainability. This commitment is evidenced by a wide range of initiatives, including:
- Carbon Neutrality: In 2018, AU became the first urban campus and research university to achieve carbon neutrality – two years ahead of its goal. AU achieved this milestone by reducing emissions, improving efficiencies on campus, investing in renewable energy, and utilizing strategic carbon offsets.
- Energy: AU’s electricity comes from 100 percent renewable sources. More than 50 percent of the university’s power is sourced from solar farms in North Carolina through its Capital Partners Solar Project initiative. The university has also invested in solar panel installations throughout campus. As a result of these efforts, AU was ranked #1 for Energy on Sierra Club’s 2019 list of “Cool Schools.”
- Green Buildings and Grounds: AU’s 84-acre campus is an accredited arboretum, managed with environmentally responsible practices. In addition, AU boasts 10 LEED-certified buildings on campus which incorporate energy-efficient technologies and focus on human health.
Real Estate Investment Highlights
The Farm at Airlie: American University received the Airlie property as a gift in 2016. It has since made investments on the property to maximize its benefits for the university community. Airlie’s property offers a wide range of cross-disciplinary, experiential learning opportunities, as well as farm-to-table produce for main campus. Learn more about AU at Airlie.
New Construction: American University invests in projects that enable its students to excel in a sustainable environment. Recent projects include a new underground heating system designed to maximize energy efficiency, and construction of the Hall of Science which will be home to the biology, environmental sciences, chemistry, and neuroscience departments. Read more about current construction projects.
AU is the FIRSTUniversity in the US to become Carbon Neutral
Social Responsibility Current Initiatives
Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing
In May 2013, the Finance & Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees created the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI). The purpose of the ACSRI is to advise the Finance & Investment Committee, through the Office of the CFO, VP, & Treasurer, about the ethical, social, and environmental considerations that might influence the management of the university’s endowment. The ACSRI comprises nine voting members, including four current student members (consisting of two undergraduates, one graduate student, and one law school student), three faculty members, one staff member, and one alumni member. The ACSRI also includes at least one administrator from the Office of Finance and Treasurer to facilitate meetings.
AU Eliminates All Public Fossil Fuel Investments from Its Endowment