Press Release: Harvard-Owned Company Sued for Illegal Logging – Students Want Answers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday 26th April 2013

Harvard-Owned Company Sued for Illegal Logging – Students Want Answers

Students push Harvard administration to sign up to principles of responsible investment as Harvard-owned logging company is sued in Chile.
Contact: Lindsey Claus at (774)-266-4378 or lindseyclaus@college.harvard.edu

CAMBRIDGE, MA – At 1pm today, 30 students hand-delivered an invitation to President Faust’s office to attend a meeting to explain Harvard’s investment in Agrícola Brinzal and to demand a plan to make investments more responsible.

The Harvard-owned logging company is being sued by the Chilean government for illegally clearing swaths of land and reforesting it with eucalyptus trees, damaging the environment and local communities.

The outcry from Harvard students and Chilean citizens comes after a series of ethically dubious investments from the Harvard Management Company. A growing group of students, faculty and staff are pressuring the university to change its investment principles. Last week, 45 students gathered from across six graduate schools and the College to plan for future campaigns.

College student Sandra Korn said,

“Because Harvard refuses to release information about its investments – we don’t know if this activity is unusual or just one of many Harvard-owned companies that is breaking the law.

Unless we ensure responsible investment principles for our $32 billion endowment – Harvard’s direct holdings could be damaging the environment and people around the world.”

Harvard owns at least another 11 companies in Chile, and more than 100 throughout the world.

Chilean student Francisco Meneses, who led the delegation to President Faust said,

“We are proud of the high environmental standards that we have on campus – they are an expression of Harvard’s values. So why should that be any different for our investments?”

Students have demanded a response from President Faust by May 8th at 9am.

 

Background Information

Chilean Court Case

A report from Chile’s Center for Investigative Journalism (CIPER) describes how the company has cleared large swaths of native forest and reforested with eucalyptus trees. The Ministry of Agriculture’s National Forestry Corporation has brought multiple lawsuits against Agrícola Brinzal for its illegal deforestation and reforestation practices. The company’s logging practices are not only illegal, they are also environmentally damaging to Chile’s forests and the local farming community.

Harvard’s Ownership

Harvard owns 99.99% of Agrícola Brinzal through a wholly-owned subsidiary called the Phemus Corporation, which enjoys nonprofit tax status. According to Harvard’s tax filings, in 2010 the company generated more than half a million dollars in income for the Harvard endowment. This money was used to employ professors, fund scholarships, and otherwise support Harvard’s mission. This includes the Harvard Forest, a research center where experts investigate the destructive effects that habitat degradation and development can have on the environment and local communities.

Additional Troubling Investments: Harvard-Owned Hotel Abuses Workers

Workers at the Hilton-managed DoubleTree Hotel in Allston, 15 minutes from Harvard’s main campus, have accused the hotel management of disregarding their grievances and neglecting important worker protection standards. On March 12, over 60 workers, students, and community members petitioned the hotel’s management to give the employees a fair process to decide on unionization.

Further Information:

  1. Harvard’s Tax Filing: http://ciperchile.cl/pdfs/03-2013/harvard/Tax_President_Fellows.pdf

  2. Report published by Chile’s Center of Investigative Journalism (Spanish): http://ciperchile.cl/2013/03/06/empresa-de-la-universidad-de-harvard-es-procesada-por-tala-ilegal-de-bosque-nativo-en-chiloe/

  3. English Translation of the report above: http://www.ilovechile.cl/2013/03/20/harvard-university-companies-accused-illegal-logging-chilo/83237

  4. Oxfam report on land acquisition by U.S. investors, including Harvard: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/files/us-land-investment.pdf

  5. Crimson Op-Ed regarding the DoubleTree Hotel: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/4/19/Harvard-unions-off-campus/

Contact: Lindsey Claus at (774)-266-4378 or lindseyclaus@college.harvard.edu

— ENDS —

Resources on HEI Hotels and Harvard investments

See below for resources on Harvard’s investments in HEI Hotels and Resorts, Emergent Asset Management, and other corporations.

Investment in HEI Hotels and Resorts

  • USAS report on university investment in HEI: Report prepared by United Students against Sweatshops (USAS) about HEI Hotels and Resorts as an unethical investment for university endowments. Has Information about Harvard’s investment in HEI Funds
  • The Harvard Crimson’s editorials decrying Harvard’s investment in HEI: Rethinking Reinvestment and HEI: A First Step.
  • HEI Workers Rising:  Website with information about the national campaign to get universities to stop investing in HEI and information about HEI workers’ fight for fair labor conditions.
 Other investments
  • Oakland Institute Report: Deciphering Emergent’s Investments in Africa: Report by the Oakland institute detailing Emergent Asset Management’s speculative investments in Africa and Harvard’s connection with the company
  • VandyWiki: A wiki page from Vanderbilt University, which has also invested substantially with Emergent, which describes in detail Emergent Asset Management’s activities in Africa and chronicles the ongoing divestment campaign on that campus.
  • Alpha Natural Resources, the company that now owns Massey Energy, operated the West Virginia coal mine whose safety violations caused the deaths of 29 miners last year. Here is a NY Times op-ed about the company not being cited for those safety violations, and an Amy Goodman article on the environmental hazards and public health risks of mountaintop removal mining.

PRESS RELEASE: HARVARD STUDENTS AND ALUMNI INVEST SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FUND

HARVARD STUDENTS AND ALUMNI INVEST SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FUND

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Contact: Krishna Dasaratha, dasaratha@college.harvard.edu, 703-589-8568

CAMBRIDGE, MA-The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition announced Wednesday that it had invested contributions from 450 donors in a socially responsible fund withheld from Harvard University. The Fair Harvard Fund, designed as an alternative endowment fund, will be invested in the Portfolio 21 Global Equity Fund.

“We are choosing Portfolio 21 because the fund fits our rigorous investment policies and has a demonstrated record of solid returns,” said Harvard undergraduate and investment committee member Michael Danto. “We are particularly impressed by their holistic approach to balancing environmental and social concerns with financial results.”

The Fair Harvard Fund was invested through the Responsible Endowments Coalition as the first partnership of the Responsible College Fund, a vehicle through which students and alumni at schools across the nation can invest withheld funds. Federal Street Advisors, a Boston-based investment consultant with a distinguished record in sustainable investing, is providing pro bono services to the Fair Harvard Fund, including helping to create an Investment Policy Statement, providing advice on asset allocation, and aligning the Fund’s mission and investment goals to find the selected fund manager.

“We hope students and alumni at more schools follow in investing responsibly through the Responsible College Fund,” Responsible Endowments Coalition Executive Director Dan Apfel said. “Students and alumni will find ways to invest their money responsibly, whether colleges’ want to help or not.”

The Fair Harvard Fund was created to encourage Harvard to create a social choice fund as an option for alumni donors. The university announced the creation of a social fund in December, but the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition is continuing to withhold the Fair Harvard Fund because Harvard administrators have not agreed to minimum standards for the social choice fund’s fiscal sustainability.

Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition member Nicole Granath said, “The university has given no indications they will assign an employee to fundraise for the social choice fund or actively solicit donations. Moreover, the university’s decision to spend 20% of the fund each year raises questions about their commitment to the social choice fund’s long term success.”