The Sustainability Plan is Greenwash
The University of Melbourne have today released a Sustainability Plan that has failed to make a commitment to divestment. The investments portion of the plan commits to developing a sustainable investments framework by the end of 2017, and to have withdrawn investments from the decided companies by 2021. There is no assurance within the plan that this will lead to the powerful statement of full divestment these 21 companies, nor is there any indication that implementation of the plan will fulfil their commitment to honour the Paris agreement to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees.
“Despite the University’s claims, the Plan does not outline the University’s response to the strong community support for divestment. The commitments made in the plan mean that the University has delayed making a decision about divestment in favour of yet another year of bureaucratic processes and ‘consultation’ with a community that has already made up their mind, ” says Lizzie Nicholson, a Master of Cultural Materials Conservation student.
After a drawn out consultation process which revealed overwhelming support for divestment among staff, students and alumni, we are disappointed the University of Melbourne continues to prioritise an ongoing relationship with these industries. The plan emphasises engagement with fossil fuel industries as a meaningful way to take action on climate change, featuring heavily the opinions of university council member and ex-fossil fuel executive Robin Batterham.
The development of the Sustainability Plan was largely facilitated by the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR), whose previous clients include Glencore Coal Assets Australia, Australia’s largest coal producer, and the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum.
“We are proud to have played a big role in making the University consider its environmental impact, and develop more sustainable practices. We are glad the University has made targets to reduce its electricity, water and waste consumption. However we believe it is hypocritical for the University to consider itself a leader in sustainability while continuing to lend its social license to the fossil fuel industry.” says Kate Denver-Stevenson, a Bachelor of Arts alumna.
The University of Melbourne has $1.9 Billion in investments managed by the Victorian Funds Management Corporation, and of that around $57-96 million is directly invested in 21 companies that appear on the Carbon Underground 200 list of the top publicly listed coal, oil and gas companies around the world.
In the development of the framework, we are calling on the University to make the process a transparent one, with staff and student divestment advocates and ethical investment experts to be included in the process. We hope the university will honour the deadlines they have set for themselves and have the processes planned by the end of March and the Framework released by the end of December 2017.
We will be tracking the University’s progress re: the sustainability plan over the next 4 years on https://www.musustainabilitywatch.org/