Published January 27, 2013 07:48 AM

Massachusetts Leads the Divestment Charge

Harvard University is a world leader in higher education, but sophomore Chloe Maxmin wants her college to also blaze trails battling climate change. The social studies and environmental science major helps coordinate Divest Harvard, an offshoot of a campaign pushing colleges, local governments, nonprofits and pensions to divest from the 200 companies with a majority of the fossil-fuel reserves.


Maxmin's group started speaking to students in August about the urgency for action on global climate change while pitching divestment as a powerful financial tool. The group then launched a successful petition drive that placed divestment on last November’s student ballot and earned 72 percent support for a non-binding referendum urging Harvard to steer its $31 billion endowment away from fossil fuels.

Divest Harvard's next step is to meet Feb. 1 with Harvard's Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility to pitch its case.

"We don't want our university to be investing in companies that threaten our future," Maxmin said. "Harvard takes a moral stand on academics and research, but its investments are still in companies that pollute without consequence and threaten the future of our civilization."

Divest Harvard is among 20 Massachusetts colleges and universities — and 200 nationwide, including Brown University — with active divestment campaigns sponsored by and the Better Future Project. These grassroots environmental groups are also organizing separate campaigns targeting municipalities, nonprofits and pensions.

Shea Riester, a student divestment organizer with Better Future Project and, said that among student campaigns, Harvard's leads the pack. Tufts is close behind, with its group planning to pitch divestment before the university's board of trustees in February.

Harvard Business Library photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at ecoRI.

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