Warning: old content!

This page has been kept up here for historical interest, but it's quite old. Links may be broken and any actions referred to are probably no longer relevant.

4. Ethical Investment 2017

A strong ethical investment policy ensures an institution’s investments and banking practices are conducted transparently and in an economically-viable, socially-responsible manner, not blind to wider social, environmental and humanitarian concerns. Institutions pride themselves on their work combating climate change, whether through their research, teaching and learning or carbon reductions. This ethos can be reflected in an institutions investments. However, investments in the fossil fuel industry or arms trade can be contradictory to an institutions broader sustainability aims and goals.

The latest scientific research shows that in order to stay below a 2c degree rise in global temperatures, 80% of currently known carbon reserves must be left in the ground. A significant number of UK Universities have now taken action to reduce their investments in fossil fuels, with many looking to shift their investments into more sustainable industries. Investments in the fossil fuel industry are financially unsustainable. Experts including the The World Bank, MPs and our own institutions have warned against the ‘Carbon Bubble’, which could see billions of pounds lost if investments are kept in coal, oil and gas. This is why The People & Planet University League focus’ not only on the transparency of a universities investments, but the areas within which these are held.

Ethical investment policies are not only necessary to direct decision-making around the investment of ‘extraneous funds’. They inform decisions about all areas of investment conducted by an institution, including but not limited to pension fund investments, equities investment and an institution’s choice of banking providers.

If an ethical investment policy isn’t put into practice then it is not worth the paper it’s printed on. The People & Planet University League only awards full points if the policy is reviewed regally and if there is clear evidence that the policy has been acted upon within the last year.

Ethical Investment Policy and Review

NB Universities will be assessed on all ethical investment criteria even if they do not currently hold endowments. People & Planet understand that it is possible for universities not holding endowments to pass and review policy on investment issues before an endowment fund becomes available. It is much easier for those universities to pass and review policy now - pre investment - rather than wait to the point at which funds have become available, have been invested, and then require a divestment process.

1a. Does the institution have a robust and publicly available ethical investment policy reported on at senior level?

Score 10%


  • People & Planet will look for the policy on the university website

  • Policy applies to the full scope of institution’s investments and have equal standing to, or be integrated within any other investment policy

  • Policy is clearly signed off at a senior level of the university and within the last 5 years.

1b. Specifics within the policy:

Additional scores available - max 60%

Additional scores will be added for each of the following areas included in the policy

  • The university commits to including student representation on its investment committee(s) and for their to be clear ongoing opportunities for the wider student body and staff community to engage with the policy 10%

  • A commitment to publicly list all investments annually (at minimum, what percentage is invested in different sectors), evidence required: financial report and/or third party annual report for most recent financial year 5%

  • Commitment to screen out specific sectors:

    1. Fossil fuel companies: partial commitment (i.e. coal and tar-sands) 5%

    2. or Fossil fuel companies: full commitment to all fossil fuel companies 20%

    3. Arms companies partial commitment (i.e. controversial weapons or sales to regimes) 5%

    4. or Arms companies: full commitment to all arm companies 10%

    5. Corporations complicit in the violation of international law 5%

    6. Commitment to reinvest in low-carbon / renewable energy companies or funds. Note: The policy must include specific exclusions around fossil fuel investments to be able to score these points. 10%


  • Clarifications

  • No score for 1a or 1b if all 3 essential points are not demonstrated

  • If the university employs a third party fund manager it is still required to have its own ethical investment policy statement.

2. Has the institution evaluated implementation and progress towards its ethical investment policy objectives in the last year?

Score 10%


  • Reporting on progress against the objectives of the policy has occurred at a senior level (ie. university council, investment committee)

  • This should include a framework or process to track changes and or progress against each objective within the policy.

  • People & Planet will look for:

  • Accessible evidence of the reporting or uploaded documents ie. minutes from a finance committee in which the policy was reported on since 1 April 2016.

  • If the policy is new, People & Planet will find a short, signed statement from a responsible party confirming the intended reporting structure and contact details of the responsible party.

  • Relevant sections of minutes for transparency.


3. The university has made a public announcement that it won’t invest in fossil fuels and/or arms.


To date, over a third of UK universities have taken a stance that it is no longer socially or environmentally just to hold investments with fossil fuel extraction industries. UK universities have become part of a global movement to divest or never invest in fossil fuels, a culture shift that acknowledges both the importance of cutting finance to fossil fuel projects and revoking the social license that gives the fossil fuel industry a space to dominate energy production and climate policy. A public statement, announcement or quote made by a university is a significant part of supporting a culture of sustainable development.

Score 20%

People & Planet will find this statement on the university website or in the local or national media. The university's score will be dependent on the following:

  • Fossil Fuel companies: Public announcement includes that the university won’t invest in fossil fuel companies 15%

  • Arms Companies: Public announcement includes that the university won’t invest in arms companies 5%

These statements should be separate to the university policy, even if this is publicly available.