Oxford Socially Responsible Investment CampaignCampaigning for Socially Responsible Investment in OxfordWhat is your college supporting?
 Calling for Socially Responsible Investment across Oxford University

Quick guide to SRI Campaigning in your college

What you want.

The governing body to pass a motion stating an investment policy with the following hallmarks (or as many as possible):

* Transparency (regular disclosure of portfolio)
* Responsibility (some sort of effective recognition that investment has moral consequences, whether by shareholder activism, divestment, or whatever)
* Review & inclusiveness (whatever policy there is has to be subject to review, a process which must include student members).
* Publicity & detail (It's no good them just saying they have a policy; they have to say exactly what it is and how it works, and say so publicly - or else it doesn't count).

Getting the GB to agree to this really implies having the master(/warden/president/provost/headhoncho) on board; the bursar is less important, but still valuable. But the more fellows you can get on your side, the better.

How to get it.

1. There needs to be awareness in your college of the general issue, and it's ideal for there to be a few of you committed to winning the campaign. It's not that time intensive, but it does need you to counter each problem with a fairly immediate and clear response. e.g. they give a certain reason for rejecting you; you come up with the answer and give it straight back.

2. The best way to start both these things is to hold a public meeting. Give yourself a couple of weeks, use the JCR mailling list, the posters which you can print off from the website (under resources). Also, contact tom@srioxford.org.uk if you want to use OUSU Live and our contacts database, which is sorted by college. Even if only one more person comes, and you were alone before, you've halved your workload and doubled the ideas you can generate.

* DON'T WORRY if you don't yet feel confident enough to talk about the details of the idea to a bunch of people at an open meeting. If you call it, then a few people who've got some experience from other colleges can come and explain what it's all about. Just give us a bit of notice: e-mail tom@srioxford.org.uk

3. Your first avenue thereafter will probably be negotiation, but there's a few things you should try and understand first:

* How the SCR strucutres its decisions: how does the Governing Body work? There 's probably a subcommittee for investments: who sits on it and how often? (Remember that your college is governed by a set of statues which have to be public: ask your college secretary for them).
* How your CR's representation works. Who do you have sitting on what committees? Can they vote? (probably not). Can they bring motions? How often are meetings?

Here's a few options for negotiations:

* If you feel confident that your JCR's appointed negotatiors will represent your case effectively, then you can use them alone.
* You could go for a personal meeting with the Master and/or Bursar to test the water.
* You could go for either a personal or official meeting with both a few people from the campaign and one of your JCR's official representatives.

But whatever method you use:

* Go in prepared. If you're daunted by the prospect of doing this yourself, one of us will come and talk to whoever goes in to negotiate. And don't accept any BS.

4. In the meanwhile, there're plenty of things you can do to get and demonstrate support:

* JCR motion
* Petition (you can do a table in your college lodge)
* Online survey. We can set one up for you; if you're curious about how that might work or want to run one in your college, contact tim@srioxford.org.uk .
* Talk to your tutors and get everyone else you know to do the same. Express concern at the issues involved and ask them how they think you should go about changing things. This will both reduce an oppositional climate and hopefully give you a good idea about what avenues of discussion will be most effective.

5. Nuclear options. It's important to know that there are quite a few of these; more aggressive tactics, which you can pull out of the bag if you need to. These include writing to alumni, going to the press, calling in the college 'visitor', stunts, handing out information at public functions in your college and the FoIA - see below.

GENERALLY: you know what will work best in your college; and it's best to take decisions about this with others. There is no definitive guide to winning an SRI campaign (though the above are good ideas), so use your imagination.

DON'T FORGET: The Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) is very powerful. If you feel that negotiations are going nowhere, please contact tomd@ousu.org to discuss making a request. Or, if you like, you can make one at the same time as negotiations are going on - your choice.

AND while your'e at it PLEASE use www.srioxford.org.uk - All colleges have a page on which you can store updates and resources, thereby meaning that future campaigns can continue to build on your success.

Difficult Questions.

* How do you define ethical - surely that's not possible?
This isn't about trying to ram an objective conception of 'responsible' or 'ethical' down anyone's throat. The point is that all communities, colleges (e.g. staff, students, alumni) included have a common constellation of values. We may not agree on all points, but it's unnecessarily cynical to think that we can't agree on a few basic principles. We're more than happy to hear the Governing Body's view on what those principles might be, or to suggest a starting point for discussion. We have no objection to the principles being minimal, but believe it is important, first and foremost, that we do not pretend that the impact of our investments is not an issue.

* We're a charity, we've got an obligation to maximise our returns!
That's no argument against transparency - if this is the only argument being made, then you can just ask for openness as the first step. Secondly, there's plenty of evidence to show that Responsible funds can be as, if not more, profitable. Thirdly, the legal case isn't as strong as you make out. This latter point can be proved in three ways. One in relation to the existing examples of educational establishments, such as Edinburgh, who already are investing responsibly (and presumably no one is claiming they're criminal). Two, in relation to the actual law, it is not as black and white as often suggested; there is in fact plenty of room for charities to invest ethically. (For more on this, check out the legal section in the long campaign guide). Thirdly, any charity can redefine its own objectives should it wish to - that's in the hands of the board of trustees - i.e. the Governing Body.

* Our investments change from minute to minute, there's no way that an occasional disclosure would mean anything!
You must get (or have the option to get) regular reports from your fund managers (we know this is true for most colleges). We aren't asking for a day by day breakdown: just transparency with the information you receive regularly will be fine. It establishes an important principle and will never be misleading per se - just give slightly incomplete information. Which we're fine with, thankyou for your concern.

Posted on 30/01/05 by tom

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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