St Peter’s College has attracted criticism after accepting a £5 million donation from Francois and Bertrand Perrodo, alumni of the college with senior roles in the controversal oil and gas company Perenco.

The donation is intended to go towards the renovation of quads and facilities in the college, and all members of the college will be consulted about the use of remaining funds.

Perenco is a major Franco-British company which produces 375,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and operates in 16 countries. It has been criticised for its denial of the existence of uncontacted, indigenous peoples in the Peruvian rainforest, and was sued in 2010 by a Peruvian indigenous rights organisation, AIDESEP. A report published by Peruvian NGO CooperAcción last year criticised the company for failing to negotiate with indigenous peoples when planning a drilling operation, which included a proposed pipeline through the Pucacuro National Reserve.

The company has received further allegations of funding a military initiative in Guatemala that oppresses citizens who object to the energy projects, but this cannot be substantiated.

Navjeev Singh, JCR President at St. Peter’s, defended the decision. “The donation was reviewed and cleared by the university committee and subsequently accepted by the college. The allegations [against Perenco] have been strongly contested and flatly denied by Perenco as far as I know.

“From the point of view of the JCR and the college, we see it as Francois and Bertrand Perredo, both Peter’s Alumni, coming back and contributing to improve college life. I described the details of the donation during a JCR meeting (with over 50 members attending) last Monday and received no negative comment or any questions/comments at all about why our college is accepting the donation. The feedback was generally positive.”

The news comes after OUSU has formally requested that the university cease to invest in fossil fuels. James Rainey, OUSU E&E chair, said, “At the OUSU E&E campaign we’ve been focusing on how the University invests- particularly in relation to fossil fuel companies. Receiving donations is to some extent a different matter (so I can only comment at a personal level).

The university and many colleges have received controversial donations in the past, and it would seem sensible to implement some kind of screening process to ensure that groups linked to human rights abuses and serious environmental degradation cannot make donations in future- as doing so may validate the activities of such companies/individuals and damage the integrity of the uni/college.”

Cherry Jackson, Environment and Ethics representative, said, “We do need the money desperately. I remember in my first year having to deal with yellow water coming out of the taps in my room, and the money will be used to improve these conditions. Indeed, I participated in the Telethon last year because I know we need money to keep college running.

“The money will help college to become more environmentally friendly as well; with improved refurbishments, not as much heat will be lost and leakages of pipes etc will stop as much water being lost.

“However, personally I would not have accepted the donation given the track record of the company that the two alumni are linked with in destroying biodiversity and people’s lives amongst other atrocities. However, I am in a position to do so as I am a student here, not a staff member in the direct line of wondering how to sort out this or that problem that college has to cope with.

St Peter’s continues to support many charities, including environmental charities, especially with Fairtrade Fortnight commencing, we hope to show how green St Peters is.”

Francois and Bertrand Perrodo are alumni of St Peter’s and wish to express their appreciation for the time they spent here . The donation is very much theirs – and is supported by other members of the Perrodo family.  Perenco, one of Europe’s biggest oil companies,  is a family owned company and is their chosen vehicle for this gift.

The appropriate University body advised the donation was acceptable and it was then approved by the College’s Governing Body.

The investment vehicles used by St Peter’s are all interviewed about their ethical policies before selected to ensure that those policies are appropriate.

We take our environmental responsibilities seriously. Following a Carbon Trust Survey, we have regular energy audits , performed by an independent external company, to help us reduce energy consumption.  We have recently pioneered a water saving system.  We are part of the Carbon Reduction Commitment of Oxford University Colleges, which prescribes a strict set of rules including documentation and record keeping and we pay carbon credits annually.  We also took part in the 10:10 Campaign where we pledged and achieved a 10% reduction of carbon emissions.

St Peter’s is delighted to receive this important and generous donation. Many of the college’s buildings and spaces will be much improved – to the benefit of  students , Fellows and staff