Category Archives: Press Releases

Press Release: 39 Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices

Re-posted from the Croatan Institute~~FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Civil Society Leaders Condemn Harvard University Land Investment Practices:

Open letter to Harvard president demands transparency and responsible investment practices

 Cambridge, MA – April 24th, 2014 – In a letter addressed to Harvard University President Drew Faust, 39 civil society organization leaders express concern about Harvard’s large-scale investments in farmland, plantation forests, and other natural resources across the developing world.

Harvard University’s $32 billion endowment is managed by Harvard Management Company, which has come under criticism for unsustainable management of investments made through wholly-owned, opaque shell companies. Earlier this year, a manager at a Harvard-owned Romanian timber company was arrested for accepting over $1 million in bribes to acquire timberland. Harvard-owned companies have been accused of unsustainable plantation forestry in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, facing lawsuits for destroying native forest and community protests from local farmers’ associations.

“The impact of Harvard’s endowment extends far beyond the gates of Harvard Yard, into communities and ecosystems around the world where the university has secretively acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of land,” noted Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow at Croatan Institute.  “With this letter,” he continued, “civil society leaders from across five continents are demanding much greater transparency and accountability for Harvard’s aggressive investments in farmland, forests and natural resources.”

“As leaders of civil society organizations,” said Dan Apfel, Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, “we are calling upon Harvard, the largest educational endowment in the world, to be a leader in providing a positive model for sustainable and responsible investing in land and across all of their assets.”

The letter states, “Given the lack of transparency of Harvard’s endowment and Harvard Management Company’s deliberate strategy of investing directly in emerging markets using these kinds of surreptitious tactics, we are concerned that these incidents constitute merely the tip of the iceberg.”

Blake McGhghy, a first-year Harvard student in the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, commented on the letter: “As students who benefit directly from Harvard’s endowment, we demand that our education not be funded by exploitation or environmental degradation. This show of solidarity from civil society groups legitimizes our concerns. It is time that Harvard respond with transparency, accountability, and responsible investment.”

Harvard University has invested over $3 billion of its endowment in direct natural resource holdings, including dairies in New Zealand, timber plantations in Argentina, farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, industrial agriculture in the Brazilian cerrado, and vineyards in California.

Two weeks ago, Harvard became the first university endowment in the United States to sign the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment. According to these leaders it is essential that these recent developments are translated into more sustainable and responsible practices in the communities and ecosystems directly impacted by your land investments.

The full text of the letter can be seen here or downloaded as a PDF here.

For more information, contact Josh Humphreys at josh@croataninstitute.org or (910) 292-9590, or Dan Apfel at Dan@endowmentethics.org or (718) 673-8669.

Advertisements

Media Advisory: SHAME Tour of Harvard Next Week

MEDIA ADVISORY: SHAME TOUR OF HARVARD

Two organizers from Corrientes, Argentina will visit Cambridge, Mass.

Cambridge, MA—On Saturday, April 5, two organizers from the communities most affected by Harvard’s timber plantations will arrive in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an 11-day tour and week of action sponsored by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition.

In spring 2013, RI@H launched its responsible ownership campaign, demanding that Harvard take responsibility for the ethical practices of the companies it owns fully as part of its endowment.

After learning of ecological, land rights, and labor rights violations in Corrientes, Argentina near the plantations of Harvard-owned companies EVASA and Las Misiones, RI@H published an investigative report and mini-documentary, delivered letters to Harvard administrators, and held demonstrations on campus.

Community organizations in Argentina want Harvard to
1) stop expanding plantations within their communities,
2) remove plantations within 2,000 meters of their homes, and
3) comply with all legally required employment standards.
Although Harvard has responded to both students and Argentinian organizers, Harvard’s timber plantations have not yet complied with these demands.

With the support of Food and Water Watch, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, XminusY, and the Oakland Institute, as well as over 70 individual donors, RI@H has invited Emilio Spataro, an organizer working with local farmers in Corrientes, and Adrian Obregon, a leader in the local small producers association and a liaison to the larger Argentine campesino movement, to come to Harvard’s campus from April 5 – 16 for the SHAME tour (Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement and Exploitation).

Over the course of the week, the two delegates from Corrientes will speak to student groups, Harvard administrators, and student leaders about their experiences living under the shadow of Harvard’s plantations.

Spataro and Obregon have a scheduled meeting with Harvard administrators including Jameela Pedicini, Vice-President for Sustainability for Harvard Management Company; Lars Madsen, Office of the President of Harvard University; and Katherine Murtagh, Director of Compliance for Harvard Management Company.

The week of action will also include the following public events:

Wednesday April 9, 7–9PM:  “From Harvard Yard to the Ibera Wetlands” (CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue Room C-203).

Thursday April 10, 8:30–11:00 AM: “A Conversation about Transnational Movement Building with Organizers from the Campaign to Save the Ibera Wetland’s in Corrientes Argentina” (New York City, location TBA)

Friday April 11, 2–3PM: “Rally for Justice in Iberá” (Convening on the steps of Widener Library, Harvard Yard)

Tuesday April 15, 4–5PM: Harvard College Undergraduate Council “Forum for Responsible Investment” (Harvard Yard, Room TBA)

 

The UC Endorses the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act!

The Harvard Undergraduate Council unanimously approved the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act, which furthers the Council’s official support of encouraging Harvard to adopt responsible investment practices.

As a part of the legislation, UC leaders will engage with administrators to urge them to ensure that university’s investments uphold Harvard’s values. Furthermore, the Undergraduate Council will work with RI@H to send a “mail merge” to all undergraduate e-mail addresses to publicize the campaign and to raise awareness among members of the student body.

The UC will also hold a campus-wide forum regarding responsible investment during the SHAME Tour and Week of Action in early April. The Council will invite administrators, faculty, members of the Harvard Management Corporation, and students to attend.

Sincerest thanks to the Undergraduate Council for their continued support of Responsible Investment!

 

Press Release: Harvard Manager Detained in Romania

CONTACT: Sandra Korn, sandrakorn@college.harvard.edu(732) 796-8052

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2013

HARVARD MANAGER DETAINED IN ROMANIA FOR CORRUPTION

Managing director of Scolopax accused of accepting bribes

Cambridge, MA—On Tuesday, Romanian authorities detained Dragoș Lipan Secu, the managing director of the Harvard-owned forestry company Scolopax SRL, along with his wife Mariana, for illegal business practices.

Romanian news sources reported that between 2007 and 2008, Mariana and Dragoș Lipan Secu accepted bribes totaling to 4.450.000 leu, or more than $1.3 million USD, in addition to a vacation to Gran Canaria and a Chrysler Sebring car. In exchange, they purchased land on behalf of Scolopax at prices and under conditions favorable to the sellers.

Scolopax SRL is fully owned by Harvard University and directly controlled by Harvard-owned holding company Phemus Corporation. According to Romanian news sources, Scolopax is the largest private owner of forests in Romania, with over 35,000 hectares of land.

Scolopax is the fourth Harvard-owned company to recently come under scrutiny for corporate misconduct. Last summer, Harvard-owned Agricola Brinzal was found guilty of illegal destruction of native forests in Chiloe, Chile. In October 2013, the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the Oakland Institute exposed irresponsible labor and environmental standards at two of Harvard’s timber plantations in the Argentinian wetlands, EVASA and Las Misiones.

Agricola Brinzal, EVASA, Las Misiones, and Scolopax are all 99.9 or 100% owned by Harvard, according to the university’s tax filings.

“Harvard currently has no verifiable system of oversight or accountability for the practices of its fully-owned companies,” said Aryt Alasti from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition. “We are demanding that Harvard adopt a Position of Responsible Ownership that works to maintain legal compliance, fair environmental and labor practices, respect for land rights and non-discrimination policies, and transparency in corporate governance.”

Thus far, Harvard President Drew Faust has failed to respond to RI@Harvard’s request.

###

PRESS ADVISORY: Students to deliver letter from Argentine farmers to Harvard President

Cambridge, MA—At 1PM tomorrow, December 10, a group of students from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition will rally in front of Massachusetts Hall in Harvard Yard in support of Argentine farmers.

They plan to deliver a letter from those farmers to Harvard University President Drew Faust. Harvard owns two industrial timber plantations in the Corrientes province of Argentina that have degraded the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem and endangered thousands of small-hold farmers in the region.

Last Thursday, community organizers rallied in the provincial capital of Corrientes against the expansion of Harvard’s timber plantations. Holding signs that said “STOP HARVARD,” they marched to the offices of Harvard’s two timber companies in Corrientes, EVASA and Las Misiones.

RI at Harvard and the Oakland Institute released a report revealing that industrial timber plantations owned by Harvard University the productivity of surrounding farms, create public health problems, and cause damage to public roads. Since it purchased EVASA and Las Misiones in 2007, Harvard has rapidly expanded the plantations into protected wetland and surrounding communities. The two companies are worth $55.2 million and own 217,166 acres of land.

Harvard has not yet responded to the allegations in the report or to demands by students and farmers to halt expansion of plantations, remove trees within 2000 meters of homes, and improve labor conditions.

ACTION ALERT: Argentine communities rally

Facing intimidation, Argentine communities and students continue demanding
Harvard University halt timber plantation expansion in protected wetlands
SAM_1713

On Thursday, December 5 at 9am, community organizations in rural Argentina began protesting the expansion of Harvard University’s timber plantations into the world’s second largest wetlands, Esteros del Iberá, and the endangerment of the rights and livelihoods of nearby communities.

The action follows the October release of a report by the student-led Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the California-based Oakland Institute titled, “Harvard in Iberá,” detailing the impact of Harvard’s investments in Corrientes, Argentina, where the University fully owns and operates two timber companies, EVASA and Las Misiones, valued at $55.2 million.

Grounded in interviews with local residents, the report concluded that the plantations interfere with local land use, damage the local roads and water supply, cause long-term soil degradation, and pose public health risks. Scientists cited in the report point to mounting ecosystem damage and encroachment into Esteros del Iberá, the protected wetlands bordering the plantations.

News of these destructive practices was widely reported in BloombergBusinessWeek and Argentina’s two leading newspapers, Clarín and La Nación. Under mounting pressure, Harvard’s companies have attempted to intimidate vocal community members.

Your support is urgently needed to halt these intimidation tactics and meet the demands of Corrientes community members to:

1)        Stop expanding the plantations until completing a participatory study of their environmental and community impacts;
2)        Remove all plantations within 2,000 meters from our communities; and
3)        Comply with all legally required employment practices.

These demands are endorsed by La Asociación Departamental de Pequeñas Productores de San Miguel; Organización Ambientalista Guardianes del Ibera; Iglesia Católica de San Miguel; Foro de Organizaciones de Agricultura Familiar; Escuela de Familia Agrícola Ñande Roga (Nuestra Casa); Grupo Ecologista Y Syry (Agua Que Corre), San Miguel; Grupo Mbarete (Fuerte), Chavarria

Help us stop this intimidation and plantation expansion

Guardianes del Iberá
Website: www.salvemosalibera.org/blog/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/guardianesibera
Twitter: www.twitter.com/salvemosalibera
Email: corrientes@responsibleharvard.com

Press Release – Rally for Justice at Harvard’s Timber Plantations

Released Friday, October 18th:

Students Rally to Demand Justice at Harvard’s Timber Plantations

Protest responds to reports of controversial environmental and social practices at Harvard-owned timber companies in Argentina

Cambridge, MA–Earlier today, 40 students rallied in Harvard Yard against the expansion of the university’s timber plantations in the world’s second largest wetlands region, the Iberá Wetlands of northern Argentina.

DSC_0158

During the rally, students delivered a letter addressed to President Faust that was written by farmers whose lives have been threatened by Harvard-owned plantations. The letter demanded that Harvard halt the expansion of its timber plantations in the region, and that the university address community concerns regarding the timber plantations.

“President Faust is accountable for the conduct of this university, and these plantations are no exception,” said Gabriel Bayard, a Harvard junior who has visited the plantations in Argentina. “The blatant disregard for Harvard values is shocking. I hope that she halts the expansion of these plantations immediately.”

The rally and letter delivery arose in response to the recent release of a report by the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition which documented the damaging effects of Harvard-owned companies on ecosystems and local communities in Argentina.

 

DSC_0099

DSC_0058

Breaking – Harvard’s Irresponsible Investment in Argentina

UPDATE (1:15 PM)Bloomberg has covered the release of our report! To read the article, please follow this link.

UPDATE (11:05 AM)Click here to read a press release by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the Oakland Institute.

____________________________________

A report released this morning by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the Oakland Institute reveals that two Harvard-owned industrial timber plantations in Corrientes, Argentina are degrading the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem and endangering thousands of farmers in the region.

The report’s findings contradict recent statements by Harvard University President Drew Faust, who wrote of Harvard’s “commitment to sustainable investment” in an October 3rd letter regarding the university’s controversial investment practices.

“When I saw how the plantations have invaded the wetlands, I felt sick to my stomach,” said Sam Wohns, the report’s author and a member of RI@Harvard. “As a Harvard student, I shouldn’t be benefiting from environmental destruction halfway across the world.”

Read the full report here.

A report from the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition and the Oakland Institute reveals businesses owned by Harvard are exploiting a community in Argentina.

View a short video about Harvard’s companies in Corrientes.

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, in conjunction with affected communities, is implementing a coordinated campaign to expose Harvard’s irresponsible practices and to force the university to stop subsidizing its wealth at the expense of poor communities.

We need your help to amplify our voice. First, pledge to support responsible investment at Harvard. Second, please join us Friday, October 18th at 3pm as we march to President Faust’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts to deliver a letter from community leaders in Corrientes, Argentina. More information here.

PRESS RELEASE: Coalition welcomes Harvard’s first Vice President for Sustainable Investing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Harvard Coalition welcomes University’s first 

Vice President for Sustainable Investing

Contact Stephanie Cappa at Stephanie.Cappa@gmail.com or 757-207-2777

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition welcomes Jameela Pedicini as Harvard’s first Vice President for Sustainable Investing.

According to a Harvard Management Company (HMC) press release, Pedicini “will work with HMC investment professionals across asset classes to analyze how ESG issues are currently integrated into the investment process and suggest enhancements where appropriate.”

She will also provide “substantive staff support to Harvard University’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) and serve as a primary liaison to other University offices, committees, and constituents on ESG/investor responsibility issues.”

“The University has listened to students and community members calling on Harvard’s investments to be aligned with Harvard’s values,” said Alexi White (HKS, ‘13). “We warmly welcome Jameela as Harvard’s first investment officer to focus on environment, social, and governance issues.”

Pedicini formerly served as Investment Officer for Global Governance with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and as a Manager of Investor Engagements at the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment London office.

“We look forward to working with Ms. Pedicini to ensure that all Harvard investments – starting with wholly-owned companies like Agricola Brinzal in Chiloe and the Doubletree Hotel in Allston – meet basic standards for land rights, labor rights, and environmental protection,” said Sandra Korn (College, ’14). “This is an important step to extend Harvard’s commitment to responsibility, ethical leadership, and comprehensive sustainability to its endowment.”

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition will deliver an invitation to meet with Jameela in the coming days.

Media Advisory: Harvard Students Demand Answers in Ongoing Chilean Investment Scandal

MEDIA ADVISORY

Date: May 8, 2013

ContactAlexi White (617-413-5972, alexi_white@hks13.harvard.edu)

Cambridge, MA—In response to Harvard’s evasive response to the Chilean government’s lawsuit against university-owned Agrícola Brinzal, students will rally on the steps of Widener Library to demand answers from the Harvard administration.

Who: Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition; Responsible Endowments Coalition; Francisco Meneses, a Chilean student at Harvard’s Kennedy School

What: Rally demanding answers from Drew Faust, the President of Harvard University, regarding Chilean government lawsuit

When: Thursday, May 9 at 1:00 PM

Where: Steps of Widener Library in Harvard Yard

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.

Students Demand Answers

One week ago, on April 26th at 1pm, 35 students hand-delivered an invitation to President Faust’s office to explain Harvard’s investment in Agrícola Brinzal and demanding a plan to make investments more responsible.

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. In April, 45 students gathered from across six graduate schools and the College to plan for future campaigns.