RI@H Responds to Faust’s Divestment Letter

In her recent letter dismissing fossil fuel divestment, President Faust instead articulates a clear case for responsible investment, the same case our Coalition has been making to Harvard for several years.

Faust writes that “we should think about how we might use our voice” to promote responsibility. We couldn’t agree more: Harvard must engage companies and asset managers to address risks and abuses. But President Faust offers no evidence that Harvard actually engages its investments in this way.

Faust argues against fossil fuel divestment because, as she wrote, “as shareholders, I believe we should favor engagement over withdrawal.” Yet Harvard has a poor history of engaging substantially with the responsible practices of companies that it owns shares in–and even of companies that it owns fully.

A letter dated August 6 from President Faust to the Coalition shows how out of touch the Harvard administration is with its investments. Timber plantations that Harvard fully owns in Chile have repeatedly been sued for violating environmental laws. Faust wrote that the University was “confident” the courts would find that Harvard’s timber plantation company, Agricola Brinzal, “has acted in compliance with the law.” In reality, the company had already been found guilty in court for violating its environmental commitments.

This Coalition has publicized – and will continue to publicize – the outrage of communities negatively impacted by Harvard’s current investment practices.

Responsible investing requires clear standards, transparency, and accountability to stakeholders who include students, staff, alumni and communities where Harvard’s investments operate.

If Harvard is making any effort to this end, it is falling short. We ask that Harvard adhere to the standards of transparency and engagement that President Faust herself extolls.

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