Divesting from Fossil Fuels

A student-led fossil fuel divestment campaign results in Rollins College’s investment in a low carbon environmental fund.

After meeting with the representatives of the student-led fossil fuel divestment campaign, Rollins College’s Board of Trustees Investment Committee recently approved the reallocation of $400,000 of the College endowment to the MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF fund.

This semester, the Rollins Coalition for Sustainable Investment (RCSI) called on Rollins to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, and to reinvest funds into socially responsible environmental funds and initiatives. After gathering close to 500 student signatures on a petition, and gaining the endorsement of numerous on-campus organizations, including the Rollins Student Government Association, the group met with Vice President for Business and Finance and Treasurer Jeffrey Eisenbarth and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Investment Committee Victor Zollo ’73, who agreed to discuss RCSI’s proposal with the entire Board of Trustees Investment Committee.

RCSI requested that the College commit itself to fossil fuel divestment over a 2 to 5 year timeline and to reallocate 1 percent of funds, or $40,000, previously invested in fossil fuels to environmental funds or initiatives. In response, the committee voted to invest $400,000, or 10 percent, in the MSCI Low Carbon Target fund. This fund has significantly lower exposure to fossil fuels and high carbon emitting companies than most other funds. The committee will track the future performance of the fund and consider increasing the allocation in future meetings.

“This is a step forward and demonstrates the College’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” RCSI President and Founder Scott Novak ’16 says. “Our campaign looks forward to future dialogue with the Rollins administration and Board of Trustees to see how we can continue work in this area and move towards fossil fuel divestment.”

So far, 41 colleges have committed to divestment from fossil fuels. In total, 441 institutions with a combined $2.6 trillion in assets have divested. Based on what it can currently identify, Rollins has about 1.2 percent of its $350+ million endowment invested in fossil fuel companies. If Rollins decided to divest from fossil fuels in the future, it would be the first college in the state of Florida to do so.

“As a College, we are always looking for ways to foster and support environmental responsibility, and we were impressed with Scott’s passion and research into this topic,” Eisenbarth says. “We are glad we are able to contribute this way to the College’s sustainable initiatives.”

“I have been very impressed with the entrepreneurial zeal the students have brought to this effort,” says Barry Allen, professor of environmental studies and RCSI’s faculty advisor. “I am hopeful that this will be the beginning of an ongoing process to align our endowment with the Rollins mission statement of ‘global citizenship and responsible leadership.’ ”