Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) recently took to Facebook praising the University of Pittsburgh by sharing an article about the university’s recent plan to develop socially responsible investing strategies. The group followed up the post with a direct jab at Boston College.
“Boston College continues to refuse to meet with students and provide more than a cursory statement regarding its ESG efforts. It is one of the only institutions with an endowment over $1 billion that does not have a dedicated socially responsible investing committee, in spite of its Jesuit values and the actions taken at other Jesuit institutions,” the group posted.
To backtrack: A Socially Responsible Investment Strategy, or SRI, is any strategy that aims to create positive social change by considering both environmental and social good alongside financial gain. The typical areas that SRI committees target are known as ESG: Environment, Social Justice, and Governance.
Boston College does not have a socially responsible investing committee. Why? So far, the student body has gotten no answers to this question from the administration.
In the early 2000s, a proposal for a SRI committee at Boston College was made. What came of that proposal is unclear to this day. In the spring of 2019, UGBC called for a SRI committee following both a resolution and referendum calling for divestment. The university has yet to provide a formal response.
“Due to the opaque nature of the administration and Board of Trustees, we do not know if formal discussions have taken place regarding social responsibility of our investments at all or at any level, which is incredibly concerning,” CJBC told The Gavel.
BC has even changed its policy related to SRI on the university’s website. The CJBC would like answers as to why this change occurred, as well as a channel of communication between students, the administration, and the Board regarding investment policy.
“We do hope that an SRI committee would recognize the moral and financial case for divestment, but the importance of the committee would extend to proxy voting policies and would simply serve as another area for student input and transparency, both of which are greatly needed on our campus. It is also an opportunity for BC to formally recognize the systematic marginalization of certain groups on our campus both locally, in the U.S., and globally,” the organization said.
Many other major universities have had SRI committees for years, often including students. These universities include BU, Stanford, Harvard, UPenn, Yale, and Brown, to name a few. Georgetown and a number of other Jesuit universities have such committees as well.
It is also important to note that BC is often left out of certain ‘green schools’ rankings, in which SRI committees are factored. These committees also form part of a school's AASHE Stars score, in which, as of recently, BC participates in.
The timing of this is interesting, as Pope Francis spoke out against fossil fuels during his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation just this month.
"Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, toward forms of clean energy. We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own," Pope Francis said on September 1st.
The pope’s words got incredible backlash from the conservative Catholic community, warning that the pope “should be careful when making theological pronouncements on certain worldly issues”, such as fossil fuels.
The argument for an SRI committee at Boston College is rooted in reasoning similar to that of the pope’s message: it would be more consistent with Jesuit Catholic teachings. Whether BC will respond to this call to action is still unknown.