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

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