Divest Sewanee becomes Socially Conscious Investment Club, emphasizes goals

sewanee pic
Sewanee: The University of the South. Courtesy of Sewanee’s flickr.

Helena Kilburn, Staff Writer

Divest Sewanee took this spring semester as a fresh start and decided to change its name to the Socially Conscious Investment Club, or SOCO; the group felt this change was needed because the name “Divest” did not truly recognize the scope of the organization’s goals.

Under the name Divest Sewanee, the club focused on the concept of divesting from fossil fuels. This is an action that many universities around the country have been undertaking, and much of this change was driven by student organizations like Divest Sewanee. The goal of the organization in the past was to convince the University to take investments out of fossil fuel companies and to reinvest in green energy.

This semester, however, the organization decided that divesting from fossil fuels was not a great enough step. The idea of moral and ethical investing is something that has been gaining massive momentum recently, and SOCO recognizes that the scope of companies that the University should not be investing in is far greater than just fossil fuel companies.

The Socially Conscious Investment Club hopes that the University will eventually take the endowment money out of all unethical organizations. This would include companies such as private prisons, companies that use child labor, participate in animal cruelty, and so forth.

Some have stated that SOCO’S goals seem too idealistic and that it feels like a stretch of the imagination to hope that the University would follow such a strict investment policy.

Wilder McCoy (C’20) responded to such critiques by saying, “our goals are idealistic, but not unreachable. There is a growing trend across the country of colleges and universities adopting socially and fiscally responsible investment plans.”

In addition, McCoy pointed out, “Sewanee has put out a document as progressive as the 2013 Sustainability Masterplan and needs groups like us to hold it accountable to its own goals.” The master plan to which McCoy is referring to has an entire section, Section H 1, that is focused on investment management.

The goals listed include: “Increase transparency of the endowment to make university investment holdings publicly available; establish a permanent committee on investor responsibility composed of students, faculty and administrators to facilitate dialog about investment strategies; evaluate University holdings in stocks and assets and their relationship to our institutional commitment to the environment and other values; develop guidelines for evaluating investments with a sustainability lens; and facilitate institution-level discussion about the implications of investment holdings in fossil fuels and other potentially environmentally or socially problematic industries.”

The goal of SOCO is to encourage the University to follow its own socially and environmentally sustainable goals.

7 thoughts

  1. I trust all the high minded idealists will ride their bicycles up and down the mountain should they ever choose to leave Sewanee?

  2. I’m impressed with SOCO’s efforts and with Sewanee’s goals! With a reputation as a school of isolation and privilege, it is heartening to hear that the University is deeply considering its social and environmental impact on the lives of the planet’s many communities, human and otherwise. And it is makes good, smart, business sense for the college to join the group of other fine institutions of higher education that take seriously and act in their role as forward-thinking promoters of positive change. Bravo SOCO for holding the school administration’s feet to the fire, and to Sewanee, for stepping in!

    1. Challenge- name me ten publicly traded companies that would pass as socially conscious.

      Isolation and privilege? Sounds potentially criminal.

      1. I don’t know much about investing; I’ll leave that to SOCO and the college to work out together.

        Criminal?!? Certainly not! Upstanding is a word that comes to mind for many reasons. Especially considering efforts such as these to evolve as citizens of the world.

  3. You need not be an investor to know the names of the biggest companies in the US that are available to the young idealists at SOCO.

    Take the list from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (30 companies) or the S&P 100 (100 companies). By the way, both lists easily accessible through web search. Now, find me ten that pass a purity test and are truly socially conscious.

    Copying other schools and hopping on the “divest” fossil fuels bandwagon is no sign of great scholarship.

    1. Dear “Tiger Dad”,

      Just because you don’t know any Socially Responsible Businesses in the world, does not mean they don’t exist. As students we believe that every decision our university makes should represent the values that they have encouraged us to pursue. Therefore, we are pushing the university to rethink their investment strategy and invest in companies that hold themselves to a higher standard.

      I also believe that “Hopping on the Bandwagon” and divesting from fossil fuels is the wrong way to look at what our group is doing. Firstly, there should be no issue with getting behind a movement that is striving for good in the world. In fact, that is how any change is formed. Second, I would also encourage you to look into Impact Investing. Impact investing is an exciting way to rethink how money is invested in the world (Sewanee just got created an impact investing fund). While no company is perfect, why not pursue to be better? Finally, we moved away from the name Divest because we believe that it is too limiting to what we want to achieve. Fossil fuels are only a fraction of what our club believes are socially irresponsible investments.

      Please let me know if you have any questions!

      Thank You

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