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.