Tag Archives: Faust

Letter to President Faust from Department of San Miguel

Corrientes Capital, December 5, 2013

Dear Harvard University President Drew Faust:

We write to you on behalf of the communities affected by your plantations in the Department of San Miguel.

We want to point out that it has been almost two months since the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released a report documenting the impacts that your companies generate in our communities.

At that same time, a group of students who are in solidarity with our struggle delivered to you a letter with three main points:

  • The request to stop expanding your plantations until you have completed an environmental and social impact study. This study should be cumulative, cooperative and inclusive of damages that have already been generated.

  • That timber plantations be moved immediately to a minimum distance of 2000 meters from our communities.

  • That you comply with all legally required employment practices for your workers in Corrientes.

But instead of siting down to discuss our demands and find a solution to this conflict, your companies have resorted to intimidation and scare tactics.

Mrs. Drew Faust, we have no idea how you resolve conflicts in the United States. But here, we don’t want your managers to seek us out, one by one, and pressure us in an attempt to make us abandon our struggle. We will not accept the recurrence of mysterious situations, such as being followed on the streets and seeing your company’s vehicles crash into our neighbor’s trucks.

What we want is for you to start an open dialogue with everyone who signed the letter you received almost two months ago.

We are only workers, farmers, citizens, students, and common folk, but we do not eat wood. We are not fools. Your people have met with the the Provincial Government to determine how to deal with this conflict, and there are pictures out in the open to prove it.

If there is no dialogue about how to implement our requests, we will make you personally responsible for any situation where our lands are involved and our physical or moral integrity is in jeopardy. You have been made aware of our situation. It depends on you to bring forth dialogue and disarm the conflict. We are a peaceful people, but we will not be stepped on.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

Residents of the Department of San Miguel, Corrientes Province of Argentina

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Dec 5 Letter from Communities in Argentina to President Faust

Scroll down to see a translated version of this letter.Dec 5 Letter, Spanish, Page 1

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English Version:

Corrientes Capital, December 5, 2013

Dear Harvard University President Drew Faust:

We write to you on behalf of the communities affected by your plantations in the Department of San Miguel.

We want to point out that it has been almost two months since the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released a report documenting the impacts that your companies generate in our communities.

At that same time, a group of students who are in solidarity with our struggle delivered to you a letter with three main points:

  • The request to stop expanding your plantations until you have completed an environmental and social impact study. This study should be cumulative, cooperative and inclusive of damages that have already been generated.

  • That timber plantations be moved immediately to a minimum distance of 2000 meters from our communities.

  • That you comply with all legally required employment practices for your workers in Corrientes.

But instead of siting down to discuss our demands and find a solution to this conflict, your companies have resorted to intimidation and scare tactics.

Mrs. Drew Faust, we have no idea how you resolve conflicts in the United States. But here, we don’t want your managers to seek us out, one by one, and pressure us in an attempt to make us abandon our struggle. We will not accept the recurrence of mysterious situations, such as being followed on the streets and seeing your company’s vehicles crash into our neighbor’s trucks.

What we want is for you to start an open dialogue with everyone who signed the letter you received almost two months ago.

We are only workers, farmers, citizens, students, and common folk, but we do not eat wood. We are not fools. Your people have met with the the Provincial Government to determine how to deal with this conflict, and there are pictures out in the open to prove it.

If there is no dialogue about how to implement our requests, we will make you personally responsible for any situation where our lands are involved and our physical or moral integrity is in jeopardy. You have been made aware of our situation. It depends on you to bring forth dialogue and disarm the conflict. We are a peaceful people, but we will not be stepped on.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

Residents of the Department of San Miguel, Corrientes Province of Argentina

 

Statement on Harvard’s Intimidation Tactics in Argentina

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition has received disturbing reports that Harvard’s companies have resorted to intimidation tactics in Argentina, following the release of a report that revealed that Harvard’s timber plantations in Argentina are degrading the world’s second largest wetlands. At the same time, President Faust refused last week to speak with local community leaders affected by two of Harvard’s timber plantations, EVASA and Las Misiones.

According to local sources, the senior management of Harvard’s timber companies have visited the homes of at least three of the report’s sources.

“They are trying to scare us,” said Cristian Piriz, a resident of San Miguel, a town next to Harvard’s plantations. “They are knocking on our doors in order to intimidate us instead of engaging in dialogue with all of us, as I’ve asked the companies to do over and over again.” We are shocked and alarmed that Harvard’s companies have resorted to such intimidation tactics. This kind of conduct does not befit our university.

Instead, we have asked that Harvard respond substantively to the demands made by community members. Last Friday, four undergraduates in the RI@H Coalition met with Harvard President Drew Faust to discuss Harvard’s management of EVASA and Las Misiones during her office hour.

Two weeks earlier, RI@H delivered a letter from seven community organizations in Corrientes to Faust demanding that she stop expanding plantations, conduct a participatory review of current practices, comply with legal employment practices, and respond within 15 days. Although Friday’s meeting took place in the last business hour before the deadline, Faust had no response to the letter.

President Faust then refused to speak with representatives of the communities adjacent to Harvard’s plantations and would not listen to a message for her recorded by community leaders. Faust’s refusal to hear from community leaders is deeply troubling; denying these issues will not make them go away.

We would like to invite President Faust and other Harvard administrators to attend a screening of “Harvard in Iberá,” this Thursday (11/14) from 8-9PM in the HKS Littauer Building 130, hosted by RI@H and the HKS Hispanic Policy Journal. After the ten-minute video, Emilio Spataro, the Coordinator of Guardianes del Iberá, and Cristian Piriz will speak about their experiences with Harvard’s timber plantations. We hope that Harvard administrators will be in attendance to hear the voices of their Argentinian neighbors.

The RI at Harvard Coalition calls for an end to intimidation tactics in Argentina and asks again that Harvard provide a response to the letter presented three weeks ago. In the letter, community groups wrote, “Your university’s lands are dedicated to an exploitive and extractive activity that is the worst enemy of our communities and our ecosystems. You are leaving our territory in poverty and forcing us to leave our homes.”

Harvard can ensure that EVASA and Las Misiones follow local labor laws and end practices that are endangering the Iberá wetlands and neighboring communities. But such responsible ownership requires engagement with community members, not acts of intimidation.

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.

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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.

Coalition Obtains Information that Pokes Holes in Faust’s Argument

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition has obtained information detailing the pernicious business practices of a Harvard-owned foreign subsidiary. This information describes the environmental, economic, and social costs that Harvard’s irresponsible investment imposes on low-income communities.

This new information contradicts a letter from Harvard University President Drew Faust last week that states the Harvard endowment “fulfills a university’s distinctive responsibilities to society.”

Harvard University has a history of investments that seek financial returns at the expense of poor communities. In 2011, the University announced – under mounting public pressure –  that it would not invest in Emergent Asset Management, a firm linked to large-scale land grabs in Africa. In 2012, the Harvard Management Corporation, which oversees Harvard’s $32 billion endowment, declined to reinvest in HEI Hotels following outcry over labor rights violations. In 2012 and again this past summer, Chilean courts fined a Harvard-owned company for environmental violations.

Over the past year, the administration has made progress to ensure the sustainability of its investments. However, the Coalition has documentation that these steps are profoundly insufficient and that immediate action must be taken to review and redress ongoing hazards to communities and the environment.

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.

President Faust responds, won’t discuss Chilean investments

On August 6, 2013, Harvard President Drew Faust emailed the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition regarding our concerns with Harvard’s investment practices. She declined our invitation to talk about responsible investing but said she will continue to remain aware of discussions taking place on campus.

We are glad that our president is paying attention to those who are calling for investment transparency and accountability at Harvard. Yet we are disappointed that President Faust has again declined to investigate and mitigate risks to the environment, workers, and communities.

In order to learn about what is really happening in communities where Harvard is investing, members of our Coalition are in contact with individuals and local organizations at home and abroad. We intend to release findings shortly, as this information is critical to assessing Harvard’s investments.

We expect that President Faust will not only listen to these findings but take action.

  • Read the full letter from President Faust to RI@H below.

Dear Members of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition,

Thank you for sharing your perspectives on Harvard’s investment practices.  As you are aware, there has been a robust conversation on campus over the past year about the University’s holdings, including students meeting with members of the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, panel discussions, and vigorous debate in the Crimson and other venues.  I look forward to following these continuing campus conversations with interest.  With regard to climate change–a concern I know we share–I wanted to be sure that you knew I had dedicated a portion of my Commencement speech this year to characterizing some of the ways in which Harvard seeks to counteract, and develop solutions for, climate change. You can find the text of my speech here: http://www.harvard.edu/president/2013-commencement-speech.

You have written me, too, about Harvard Management Company investments in Chile.  Sustainability is a key element of our natural resources investment strategy, and we all share the goal of responsible stewardship of forests.  I am aware of the cases that you referred to, and HMC is confident that the courts, once they have reviewed all the facts of each case, will conclude that the company overseeing Harvard’s properties in Chile has acted in compliance with the law.

I am not able to join you for your event on September 17, but look forward to learning about the discussions that take place.

With best wishes for the rest of the summer and the upcoming semester,

Sincerely,

Drew Faust