Saturday, 20 December 2008


From 1 January 2009 UCL will adopt its ethical investment policy.

Click here for the full text of the policy.

This is an amazing victory for the Disarm UCL campaign ! For just over two years we have been campaigning for this policy. Our concerns and opinions were initially dismissed by the Provost but now they have been heard and the ethical investment policy will come into effect on 1 January.

This is a HUGE, HUGE thank you to everyone who helped to make this campaign a success. Your support, hard work and dedication has paid off big time. You should all be very proud of yourselves ! We also hope our victory can inspire campaigners at other universities and shows that students really can make a difference.

Of course there are ways we feel the ethical investment policy can be improved and we will
keep campaigning to improve the policy and make sure that UCL will contribute more profoundly to positive change through its investments. We will also continue to call for equal student representation and - FIRST AND FOREMOST - we will make sure UCL does actually sell its shares in arms trader Cobham plc. For more detailed criticism of the policy please click
here for the latest article in the Cheesegrater.

Please check this blog in future. We will post more details about the ethical investment policy and about the Cobham shares as soon as we know them.

In the meantime: GO OUT AND CELEBRATE !

A Farewell To Arms?

Here is the latest article on Disarm UCL in the Cheesegrater:

UCL is due to launch its ethical investment policy in January but the Provost shouldn’t be patting himself on the back just yet

THE LAST WEEK of November was Ethical Investment Week at UCL. In a panel
debate, Sir Stephen Wall, Chair of UCL Council, spoke on the progress of ethical investment at
UCL. For Disarm UCL it was another success in their long-running campaign to persuade College to divest its shares in arms companies and adopt a holistic ethical investment policy.

However, the debate also revealed College’s ambiguous stance to the future for ethical investment at UCL. Concerns were raised that College’s new investment policy, due to be launched in January 2009, would only be a weak nod in the direction of ethical investment.

No blanket ban

Plans are for the assessment of investments on a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket ban
on investments in arms companies. Although it seems likely that such a policy would mean
UCL divests its notorious shares in Cobham plc (see Cheese Grater issue 12), there would be nothing to stop similar investments being made in the future.

In March Provost Malcolm Grant admitted that it was necessary to extend UCL’s current
guidelines on socially responsible investment which so far only explicitly bans investment
in tobacco companies. The Provost proposed that UCL adopt the ‘Oxford model’ by setting
up a separate ‘Ethical Investment Review Committee’ to take responsibility for the issue.

According to minutes from College Council the parameters for investment set by this committee
might be either ‘negative’ (advising the avoidance of investments in particular areas) or ‘positive’ (advising the active seeking of opportunities to invest in areas seen as concordant with UCL’s mission).

No say for students

There has still been no formal consultation with students, surprising considering the vocal
nature of the student-led Disarm UCL campaign. After pressure from campaigners to investigate the possibilities of ethical investment, a report was produced last year by UCL alumnus Mr Edwin Glasgow QC and Sir Stephen Wall, advising the Provost on UCL’s future investment policy. However this report has been labelled confidential and remains
unavailable to students. Disarm UCL are sceptical about the effectivness of the ‘Ethical Investment Review Committee’.

The committee consists of two lay members, two academic staff and one student.
Disarm UCL and Amnesty International are pressing for equal student representation
which seems appropriate since the committee was established in response to long-term pressure from students. The activities of the EIRC are strangely secretive and it is unclear whether they
have met at all since being established early this year. The committee certainly did not report
to College Council in June, as it was mandated to do in March. Even if the committee does exist,
there is currently no student representation at all as the Sabbs confirmed that they hadn’t decided who would be appropriate, although the job it is likely to fall under the remit of the Environment and Ethics Officer. Education officer Ed Steward has said it would unlikely that the EIRC would be an open committee and according to its terms of
reference it is only mandated to meet twice a year.

Bureaucracy the enemy of action, eh?

Disarm UCL have repeatedly pointed to evidence that suggests ethical investment is not
only equally but more profitable than investments without ethical criteria. UCL has admitted that there may even be a financial penalty for continuing investment in companies that alienate
staff and students. According to a recent report by the UN and Mercer, ethical investment does
not bring a performance penalty and as well as offering companies a moral high ground they
also bring in profitable returns. While college continues to sit on the fence, shares in Cobham plc have been continuously pumping cash into the development of weapons and defence
systems. Rather than seizing the chance to be a true ‘global leader’, by delaying the decision UCL is now lagging far behind divestment at Oxford and Cambridge, whose arms shares the Provost once used to justify UCL’s. The change of policy in January could alter this if College not only divests its arms shares but adopts a holistic ethical investment policy that actively seeks out companies in accordance with UCL ‘global mission’.

Contributors: Christina Ravinet, Jenni Hulse, Sam Steddy, Gareth Spencer, Alex Ashman, Mark Hoffman, Ka Bradley, Toby Youell,
George Starling, George Potts,Thomas Rhoades, Adam Gillet, Katherine Harrison. Special Thanks to Josh Worth

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ethical Investment campaign week: great success !

The ethical investment campaign week last week was a great success.

Members of UCLU People and Planet society had a stall every day at lunchtime in the Union with loads of free food and cheap fair tade drinks. It was a great success and a good opportunity for students to find out more about ethical investment and to share their views. Thanks so much to everyone who helped to organize the stall. Fantastic work !

Members of UCLU Amnesty International Society used their weekly letter writing session to write to the Provost regarding ethical investment (ei) at UCL. Their core demands included: equal student representation on any future ei review committee, the ei policy to be made public, exclusion of all investment in arms companies and also the possibility of positive investments. Thanks to everyone for writing a letter. If you would like to write one, too - please get in touch:

The highlight of the week was the expert panel debate on Tuesday night. We had a great turn out of UCL students and alumni and pretty much filled up the whole lecture theatre. Thanks so much for coming everyone.

We had some really inspiring people on the panel and it was great to discuss ethical investment in general and at UCL in particular. The debate was very lively and there were quite a few different points of view and suggestions. Thank you in particular to Sir Stephen Wall, Chair of UCL Council, for coming and letting us know about the progress of ethical investment at UCL. Sir Stephen acknowledged that UCL's move towards ethical investment had been driven forward by student campaigning and that UCL hopes to present an ethical investment policy in January 2009. The debate continued afterwards at a wine reception in the Economics department.

After the event, Isabel Kwok from Triodos bank, one of the experts on the panel, wrote to us saying: "Thank you (..) to everyone at UCL for welcoming me to take part in such an interesting debate. It really hardly scratched the surface of some very pertinent issues but its so pleasing to see such a strong turn out."

After the event many of the UCL alumni present decided to have another letter writing campaign to the Provost to ensure that ethical investment at UCL is a postive step forward and excludes arms investments. If you are a UCL alumni and would like to get involved please contact our coordinator Dan -

Thanks again to everyone who helped to make last week such a success ! You are all fantastic !