First things first, my name is Tobias Udsholt and I will be working with the Sustainability Team at King’s over the next few months.
As a student at King’s I have spent a lot of time engaged on issues relating to sustainability. Now that I have completed my degree, I am very excited to spend the summer months putting words into action. I will only be with the team for a short period of time before I begin an MSc in Environmental Economics at LSE in September, but I hope to get a lot done. You can get in touch with me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
One area of particular interest to me is the debate over the role and responsibilities of universities in relation to the array of societal challenges we collectively face. As I see it, universities stand uniquely placed to nurture an understanding of the importance of sustainability amongst its students while playing a positive and active role in the wider social debate.
Grass root campaigns calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies have sparked intense debate on university campuses over the past few years. How far should universities go in taking a stance on issues such as climate change? Can engagement with companies whose business-models centre on the extraction of fossil fuels help shift us towards a more sustainable trajectory? And how should strategical objectives be balanced with ethical dilemmas?
King’s responded to the Fossil Free KCL campaign in November 2015, by setting up the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) and tasking it with a wide-ranging review of practices. On the same occasion Professor Ed Byrne, the Principal of King’s, released a statement reiterating “the commitment of King’s College London to doing more to bring about a low carbon and just world.”
The review conducted at King’s is distinct from the approach taken by many other universities in the UK. Rather than focusing solely on the framework for making investment decisions, the scope of the SRIRC extends to in-house energy management, research grants and contracts, fundraising, procurement and of course investments. By formulating a new university-wide strategy for incorporating ethical considerations into daily-operations, sustainability is put on the agenda across the board. This presents a good opportunity for the Sustainability Team to feed in ideas for new sustainable procedures in a variety of areas. If you want to participate in this process you can either send your recommendations directly to email@example.com or via us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday, the SRIRC held its second Open Forum to discuss the draft recommendations issued by the committee. I invite you all to browse through the discussion points but among the highlights are the following:
- King’s plans to identify high quality managers that specialise in investments in solutions to climate change and other environmentally friendly issues.
- King’s is currently working to create more incentives for academics to disclose consulting engagements.
- There is spectrum for closer supervision of the supply-chains of contractors employed by King’s.
- Policy is in place to reject prospective funding from organisations that are deemed harmful.
The discussion paper also revealed that King’s has been an important player in the establishment of a new tobacco-free fund at BlackRock Investments. This illustrates that there are a number of options available to secondary investors that do not directly control the destination of their investment.
The Open Forum itself was lively and well-attended. The panel-speakers included two student representatives, Dr. Tytus Murphy and Nadine Almanasfi, the Student Union President, as well as Ian Creagh, Head of Administration and College Secretary, Chris Mottershead, Vice-Principal (Research & Innovation) and Professor Sridhar Venkatapuram. In the ensuing question-and-answer session students probed the criteria set out to identify opportunities for positive investment and how the governance structure of the committee will be formalised going forward.
The SRIRC will make their final recommendations to the Principal by October.
Next week is Bike Week at King’s so expect a foray of information on cycling facilities, safety and initiatives at King’s.
Until next time!
Tobias Udsholt, Sustainability Projects Assistant