Tag Archives: responsible ownership

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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Harvard purchases $60mil+ in California vineyards

As the Crimson reported yesterday, Harvard has purchased around $60 million of vinelands in California through Brodiaea, a fully-owned company.

Harvard Management Company, the in-house management firm that oversees the University’s $32.7 billion endowment, has continued its strategy of investing in natural resources by purchasing millions of dollars’ worth of vineyard land in central California, according to University tax filings and recent reports of purchases in the region.

Brodiaea, a Delaware-based corporation that is entirely owned by the University, paid $10.1 million in February for more than 7,500 acres in Santa Barbara County, according to a report last month by the Farmland Investor Center, a market research firm. David Hamel, an appraiser quoted in the report, estimated that the University, through Brodiaea, has so far paid $61 million for more than 10,000 acres in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

Kevin Galvin, a spokesperson for the University, confirmed that HMC owns the land described in the reports. Galvin declined to comment on how much was paid for the acres.

HMC’s new holdings come in a region where the quality of land and grapes is rising, according to Michael Fritz, the author of the story which first reported the purchases. “If you can get in in the early days before the land prices skyrocket, you’re better able to harvest returns as time passes,” Fritz said in an interview with The Crimson.

Farmland Investor Center wonders “if Brodiaea was a well-timed water play in light of the region’s worsening groundwater shortage.” As the market research reporter writes,

“Last August, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors adopted an “urgency” ordinance that prohibits any new development or new irrigated crop production unless the water it uses is offset by an equal amount of conservation. Water levels in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin have fallen sharply in recent years—two to six feet a year in some areas—causing wells to go dry and forcing many vineyards and rural residents to drill deeper wells, according to local accounts. The irrigation development restriction remains in place through August 26, 2015. The basin supplies water for 40% of the county’s agriculture sector.”

According to Harvard’s manager there, though, “the timing of Brodiaea’s irrigated land purchases in San Luis Obispo County and the subsequent moratorium on new irrigation development was ‘pure coincidence.'”

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!

 

Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing

Our Board of Advisers member Bob Monks has coauthored a book with writer Marcy Murninghan entitled Trusting Harvard: The Cost of Unprincipled Investing. The two Harvard alums share a great deal of knowledge about institutional investment strategies and Harvard’s role in socially responsible investment. The book is available from Amazon.com!

The blurb reads as follows: 

For decades, Robert Monks has promoted a simple idea: that property owners—even if the property is a share of corporate equity, or pile of funds to invest—have a civic moral responsibility for their holdings. At minimum, their obligation is to assure that no laws have been broken, no damage to others inflicted. More broadly, property owners have an obligation for active engagement, to assure positive performance and ethical integrity. That’s a form of citizenship that’s good for democracy, as well as capital markets. And it views “capital” holistically, connecting the stock and flow of financial, environmental, social, human, and other forms of capital because that’s how the real economy works. 

These concepts of “stewardship”, “ethics”, “capital”, and “citizenship” are the pillars undergirding Trusting Harvard. In it, on the occasion of his 80th birthday and upcoming 60th Harvard reunion, Monks once again makes his argument to a Harvard President. Along with co-author Marcy Murninghan, he provides a framework for answering two questions: How can Harvard fulfill its fiduciary obligation as an investor in ways that advance its beliefs, values and commitments? How can Harvard take the lead in creating a curriculum for students, professionals, and the general public about the civic moral obligations of wealth? While aimed at Harvard, the issues covered are relevant to other universities and tax-exempt institutional investors, because they have a special duty to advance the public interest. In addition to fiduciary and curricular frameworks—the “myopic”, “ethical”, and “integrated” fiduciary; a tiered approach to gaining fiduciary knowledge and competence—a series of questions for trustees to ask are included. The result is a call to action to restore the social compact affecting universities and other public fiduciaries. That means moving away from a “house divided”, wherein fiduciary and program responsibilities reside in separate wings, to one wherein they are inextricably linked. And that’s good for everybody. 

Announcing the SHAME tour of Harvard

SHAME stands for Stop Harvard’s Argentine Mismanagement & Exploitation (clever, right?) but it’s also how Harvard administrators are going to feel when confronted by the stories of those who are most affected by their irresponsible investments.

Last semester, we sent letters, signed petitions, and demonstrated outside in the rain and cold. We even published an investigative report and produced a mini-documentary. But Harvard President Drew Faust has refused to enact responsible ownership policies, ignoring the requests of people who suffer every day from Harvard-owned plantations.

We don’t think she can ignore community leaders who travel 4,884 miles to defend their way of life. It’s one thing to read about Harvard’s out-of-control companies halfway around the world, but it’s another thing to hear about them from the people who suffer the consequences.

We’ve estimated that it will cost $4,000 for visa fees and international airfare, and we want to buy tickets by February 19th. Please help donate now so we can bring Harvard’s neighbors in Argentina to Harvard Yard this spring!

Undergraduate Council endorses Responsible Ownership Policy

At last night’s Undergraduate Council meeting, undergraduate representatives passed legislation entitled “The Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act.” Put forward by freshman reps  Riya Patel and Giora Ashkenazi, the legislation was co-sponsored by 17 other representatives, including UC Vice-President Sietse Goffard. An excerpt of the legislation reads: 

… Whereas in Argentina, Harvard-owned timber plantations are degrading the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem, expanding into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities, creating public health problems, damaging public roads, ignoring legally required employment practices and endangering thousands of farmers in the region;

 

Whereas residents of the communities affected by Harvard’s plantations in Argentina sent a letter to President Faust on December 5th, 2013 expressing their concern that even after two months, the administration still hasn’t responded to the RI@H Coalition’s report documenting the impacts that Harvard’s companies have in their communities nor to the community’s request to halt the environmental and human rights abuses and comply with legal employment practices, and expressing their desire to work with Harvard to satisfy both party’s needs rather than face intimidation and scare tactics aimed at quieting the protests;

 

Whereas President Faust has so far only responded by proxy and inadequately to this letter from the communities in Argentina;

 

Whereas President Faust has articulated a clear case for responsible investment, yet offers no evidence that Harvard actually engages its investments in this way, and instead the administration has demonstrated a lack of awareness and knowledge about its investments;

 

Be it therefore resolved that the Harvard Undergraduate Council officially endorse RI@H’s efforts to encourage Harvard University and Harvard Management Company’s adoption and application of the proposed policy to guide Harvard’s investment practices by February 12, 2014…

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

09-120002 (1)

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

 

Tomorrow: Video and Panel on Harvard in Iberá

 

Please join us tomorrow for a film screening and panel discussion about Harvard in Iberá!

When: Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 8:00 to 9:00 pm

Where: Littauer Building 130; enter via courtyard

Lost?: Call 616-334-8343 for directions

10 minute film followed by a panel discussion with:

  • Emilio Spataro, Coordinator of Guardianes del Iberá
  • Cristian Piriz, Resident of San Miguel
  • Sam Wohns, Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition

Harvard in Iberá documents the experiences of rural communities in the Iberá Wetlands adjacent to Harvard’s timber plantations. The short film gives voice to those who bear the social, economic, and environmental costs of Harvard’s investments in the world’s second largest wetlands.

Watch a 45-second preview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr1ioQlWDfo

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.