St Anne’s College has joined the Responsible Investment Network (Universities), alongside the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. The purpose of the Network is to assist educational institutions in investing its endowments responsibly. The current three members of the network have a combined endowment of approximately £5.4 billion.
The College commented on its website that the three educational institutions comprising the RINU are “united in their ambitions to create positive change through their investment practices. They will share ideas on topics such as stewardship of their investments, engaging with their asset managers, educating students and staff, and social impact investment.”
“The founding members of the network have seized an opportunity to use their endowments to further their missions and take action on global threats such as climate change and ecosystem breakdown as well as local issues including inequality and homelessness.”
The Network is run by the charity ShareAction, with support from Big Society Capital, the UK’s largest social impact investor, and the National Union of Students’ sustainability charity, SOS-UK. The Network’s role in the investment of these institutions is an advisory one, providing various opportunities for each establishment, depending on its specific interests. It exists to provide a forum for discussion between different institutions, and to incentive them to invest responsibly, though it cannot force them to do so. Each institution has the option to leave the Network, or renew its membership, on an annual basis.
John Ford, the Treasurer of St Anne’s, said the RINU “is a means of sharing ideas and best practice with like-minded organisations on responsible investment, as well providing some structure as to how fund managers, employed by the college, engage with the companies that they invest in”
While many educational institutions invest through passive investment managers, with the goal of simply maximising returns, the Network looks to foster engagement between the two parties in order to incentivise ethical investment.
St Anne’s move to ethical investment comes after Cherwell revealed, in November 2018, that the College had invested in corporations that had been accused of causing significant environmental damage, committing human rights abuses, selling arms to Saudi Arabia and producing nuclear weapons. Corporations that received investments from St Anne’s included BAE Systems, Rio Tinto Group, and Barrick Gold Corporation.
Through the Network, the College also hopes to invest in companies that pay their staff a living wage and support local communities. This investment strategy comes amid recent condemnation by the College’s own JCR for a failure to pay Anne’s staff the Oxford Living Wage. St Anne’s pays its staff the National Living Wage via a termly levy from students.
After joining the RINU, St Anne’s will conduct a consultation with both students and staff as part of its current investment review in Hilary Term. Ford commented, “the college is currently undertaking a review of its entire investment strategy not only in terms of what it invests in, but also how it generates income to support its students. Part of the review will involve a college wide consultation to take place next term.”
“The college is keen to be as transparent as possible with its students and staff on its future investment strategy, which is why we are undertaking the consultation.”
The impact of the Network, and responsible investment, will be assessed as part of the review.