Oxford Campaign for Socially Responsible Investment
Oxford University and its colleges collectively invest over £2 billion.
While the institution is educating 1000s of students from across the world, and engaging in influential positive research,
its money could be supporting companies engaged in the arms trade, tobacco sales, manufacture of instruments of torture,
and widespread environmental degradation.
We believe that Oxford University should take moral responsibility for the impact of its investments. We believe that the University and its Colleges should take the actions of the companies they invest in into consideration - and that their investments should reflect the positive purpose of the institution and values of their students, staff and stakeholders. We know that socially responsible investment is legal, practical, and financially prudential.
Please explore this website for full details of the campaign, the arguments behind it, and the action that has been taken. This page summarises the core current issues in the campaign.
Brief Campaign History
Early 2001 - 'Not In Our Name' SRI Campaign launched.
June 2002 - Student SRI Campaigners take a paper to University Council to call for an SRI Policy. A weak policy to pursue values of Corporate Social Responsibility (the Good Corporation Charter) is adopted.
Early - Mid 2004 - Student engage in discussion with University Investment Committee to see how the policy is being implemented. It becomes clear that after two years, the Good Corporate Charter policy is having no impact - and there is no evidence of implementation at all.
November 2005 - Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) release figures showing Oxford to be one of the worst University Investors in the Arms Trade. Over 5000 members of Oxford University sign a petition for SRI.
January 2006 - OUSU submits a comprehensive report to University Council outlining the inadequacy of the current policy, and constructive steps forward. The paper is delayed at the last minute till April.
April 2006 - OUSU's paper is considered by University Council as an Annexe to a report rejecting it, drafted by a secret working party convened without any student representation. Council rejects OUSU's paper, conceding only that University Investment Committee should start reporting to Council on its implementation of the weak existing policy.
The evidence to support the financial feasibility, legality and practicality of Socially Responsible Investment is solid and comprehensive. However, the following confusions are often wrongly used against SRI:
Socially Responsible Investment will harm financial returns…
There is clear evidence that Socially Responsible Investment does not harm investment returns.
The average UK ethical unit trust beat the average of all UK unit trusts by 13% (71% growth compared to 55% growth for the FTSE index) between 1991 and 1996 (source: Cooperative Insurance). The World Markets Company concluded its report on ethical investment by stating that it "can provide competitive returns".
Recent academic studies also evidence no loss from Socially Responsible Investing. For example, Kreander et al (Sept 2005, Journal of Business Finance and Accounting)
Colleges and the University are, as charities, legally prohibited from investing ethically…
Trustees are obligated to pursue the best interests of the Charity - but this specifically does not exclude Ethical Investment. In fact, Charity Commission regulations (2001) state "trustees of a charity should decline to invest in a particular company if it carries out activities which are directly contrary to the charity's purposes"
Amongst other precedents from law and government recommendations, the Goode Committee on Pension Law Reform concluded "Trustees … are perfectly entitled to have a policy on ethical investment and pursue that policy"
Ethical criteria are too tricky to define and apply to an investment policy…
The ethical investment industry is well developed. All fund managers accept instructions, and there are recognised frameworks for socially responsible investing - and for ascertaining institutional values. Fund managers can be instructed to balance ethical and financial considerations, and the evidence from the size of the UK ethical investment market (£17bn 'screened' + £280bn under 'engagement' instructions), and its positive performance shows that many successfully do.
You can find more information on the financial and legal framework for SRI in the Resources Section of this website, alongside further detailed documents on SRI.