Oxford Socially Responsible Investment CampaignCampaigning for Socially Responsible Investment in OxfordWhat is your college supporting?
 Calling for Socially Responsible Investment across Oxford University
The Oxford SRI Campaign successfully achived the creation of an Socially Responsible Investment Committee in Oxford University. (Current membership).

The pages below date from a key moment in that campaign, and have not been updated since April 2006 - and a lot has moved on since then (see the link above).

However, the need for Socially Responsible Investment campaigning on a college level, and in Oxford University, is not over. These pages are here as a resource and archive for campaigners who continue to work on this important issue.

April 15th 2008, Tim Davies, Oriel College (2003 - 2006).

Update 27th April 2010: Campaigning work in 2009/10 led to the committee being fully established after being dormant. Minutes of the SRI Committee of the University are here.

Update 20th May 2010: The Oxford Anti War Action group have set up a blog where they will document their ongoing work on SRI for Oxford University.

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.

Frequent Confusions

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.

Support the Campaign
We welcome support from all members of the Oxford University Community. Students, staff and alumni. If you can add your voice to the campaign, please e-mail president@ousu.org.uk with a statment of your support.

To find out about other ways you can support and get involved in the campaign, take a look at the 'What can I do?' pages here.

Campaign Aims

The Oxford SRI Campaign is asking the University and its Colleges to:

  • Implement a credible Socially Responsible Investment policy that takes into account the views and values of students, staff and other stakeholders.
  • Adopt maximum possible transparency in their investment policies and holdings.

The Current Situation

The Central University maintains that it investments of over £400m are covered by a policy to 'pursues the adoption of the values contained in the Good Corporation Charter'. However:

  • The 'Good Corporation Charter' is a self-assessment tool covering how a company deals with customers and suppliers. It is not a framework for Socially Responsible Investment.
  • The Central University policy does not include any mechanisms for engagement or divestment on the basis of specific issues.
  • The University Investment Committee are unable to show how the current policy has had any effect whatsoever in the last 4 years.

Why SRI?
Every share held in a company is a stake in that company, and in that company's activity. A number of the companies Oxford University and its College routinely invest in are involved in the manufacture or sale (often to corrupt regimes) of whole weapons systems or instruments of torture. Other investments connect the University with the sale of tobacco products, and firms engaged in vast environmental degradation.

Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) is about understanding the moral and practical responsibility that shareholding brings. By sensibly examining the impact of the companies it invests in - and modifying or using its investments in line with its values, an institution can recognise its moral responsibility, and have a practical positive impact in the world.

SRI comes in two main forms: engagement and divestment. In engagement, a shareholder will use their vote at company an AGM to raise concerns about the actions of that company. In divestment, an institution will decide that a particular shareholding or sector runs wholly against its institutional values, and it will get rid of its stake in those companies.

An SRI policy backed with the option of divestment is a credible force to influence business behaviour - and sends clear signals that shareholders cannot be passive supporters of corporate crimes.

Oxford Socially Responsible Investment Campaign is campaigning for clear committment to Socially Responsible Investment from Oxford University and for greater financial transparency in the investments of Oxford University Colleges. This website contains information about the campaign, and details on how you can get involved