University To Seek Divestment From Abortion Providers, Environmental Polluters

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA GU Fossil Free, pictured here at a protest on January 16, circulated a letter written by an alumnus calling for the university to divest.

GU Fossil Free, pictured here at a protest on January 16, was consulted in the working group’s process of crafting the SRI policy.

Georgetown will make efforts to avoid investments in companies involved in providing abortion services, as well as companies deemed to violate “human dignity,” after the university’s board of directors approved a new Socially Responsible Investing Policy on Thursday.

The policy is a general ethical framework for the university’s investment strategy, laying out ethical guidelines that the university must follow consistent with the university’s academic mission and Catholic and Jesuit identity. The new guidelines broadly require the university to consider the social and environmental impact of companies in which it invests.

The abortion services provision requires the university to “avoid investments in companies that are substantially involved in the provision of abortion services.” It comes in a section titled “Do No Harm,” which also instructs the university to avoid investing in companies involved in “widespread violations of human dignity.” These include companies that cause direct environmental harm or manufacture weapons “intended to be used for indiscriminate destruction.”

Though the policy requires the university to make “reasonable efforts” toward its goals, it does not strictly require any new divestments, nor does it mandate any new investments that would compromise the university’s financial interests.

However, in accordance with the policy, the university will consider investments into companies with a positive social and environmental impact. The board emphasized that the endowment “shall not be used as a tool to promote a political agenda” and investments should take into account the university’s commitment to social justice, environmental responsibility and the common good.

The board’s Subcommittee on Investments will continue to monitor the endowment using the new policy, while the Investment Office will incorporate the policy into its activities.

The board’s Working Group on Socially Responsible Investments crafted the policy in consultation with representatives from GU Fossil Free, a student group that has lobbied the university to divest from fossil fuels entirely. The working group was formed following the board’s 2015 decision to divest from companies mainly involved in coal mining for energy production, after broader lobbying proposals and protests from GUFF members.

Another student group, Georgetown University Forming a Radically Ethical Endowment Coalition, has also lobbied the university with divestment proposals over the past year. The Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, which makes recommendations to the board on ethical investment decisions, recommended against direct investment in private prisons after GU F.R.E.E. advocacy efforts for a broader divestment.

Michaela Lewis, Co-President of pro-abortion rights student group H*yas for Choice, commended GUFF’s success in advocating for parts of the SRI policy, but also said the targeted restrictions on investing in abortion providers “inherently places the provision of abortion care on par with the production of weapons and the destruction of the environment.”

Anti-abortion student group Georgetown Right to Life did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Paul Tagliabue (CAS ’62), the leader of the working group and the board’s vice chair, said the university will take new values into consideration when making investments moving forward.

“The university will consider impact investments in sectors that include renewable energy, energy efficiency, healthcare, financial inclusion, education-enhancing technologies and sustainable agriculture,” Tagliabue said in a university press release.

The board said its new policy is a continuation of Georgetown’s commitment to socially responsible investment reaching back to the introduction of the CISR in the late 1970s. CISR expressed support for the development of the new policy at its meeting in May.

To develop the new policy, the board’s working group compared existing university policies with the policies of other academic and Catholic institutions and analyzed the impact of socially responsible investing policies on their investment performance.

Tagliabue voiced his support and excitement for the new policy.

“This SRI Policy is an important step forward for Georgetown,” Tagliabue said. “It formalizes and strengthens the university’s investment policies. Recognizing that the university’s endowment is not to be used for advocating political interests, we are committed to both meeting our fiduciary responsibilities and generating resources to advance the university’s academic mission in a manner consistent with our identity as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.”

A university spokesperson declined to say whether the university has ever invested in abortion providers in the past.

This post has been updated.

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