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Divestment update

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Rebecca Chopp

Letter  •

Dear members of the DU community,

The University of Denver’s Board of Trustees has been giving considerable attention to ways our University can best pursue more sustainable practices and address the threats of global climate change, which we believe is a very real threat that must be treated with urgency and creativity.

The Task Force on Fossil Fuel Divestment presented its findings, conclusions and recommendations to the January Board meeting. After full consideration and discussion, the Board approved a set of principles on climate change, divestment and sustainability based on the recommendations of the task force. The final report of the task force—titled Ends and Means: Considering Climate Change, Divestment and Sustainability at the University of Denver—presents those findings, conclusions and recommendations. The full report has been posted online.

Regarding divestment, the Board adopted the task force recommendation that divestment in fossil fuel companies, or any other industry, would not be an effective means of mitigating global warming nor would it be consistent with the endowment’s long-term purpose to provide enduring benefit to present and future students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders. Rather, the University of Denver’s greatest ability to mitigate climate change and foster a sustainable future lies in deploying its core competencies: education, research and the ability to foster informed community discourse and in accelerating its sustainability in its operations.

The principles commit the University of Denver to adopting a formal policy addressing climate change, developing partnerships to address issues of climate change and sustainable development through its academic efforts in research, teaching and service, and ensuring that all academic and administrative units embrace efforts to foster sustainability. Regular reporting on all efforts to the Board through the senior administration will be required.

In addition, the following actions by the University leadership will be commenced immediately:

  • Establishing a revolving “green fund” to investigate new efforts related to sustainability in the operations of the University. The University will create this fund with an initial $5 million and will look for donor support to increase this fund.
  • Further investment in the University’s sustainability efforts, both financially and in terms of human capital, that will include new organizational structures and reporting.
  • Working with the Board of Trustees and investment managers to make available an alternative type of investment vehicle that may offer donors the ability to have their contributions invested in a manner that aligns with their social objectives regarding sustainability.

While DU has established a solid foundation—the hard work of many individuals reduced the University’s carbon footprint by 28 percent between 2006 and 2015 toward our commitment of carbon neutrality—we recognize that the next phase will require considerable investment and creativity. Other resources will therefore be dedicated as we implement DU IMPACT 2025.

The sustainability implementation cluster of DU IMPACT 2025 is working on five initiatives: transportation, green space, energy, food sourcing and creation of a sustainability curriculum. And our interdisciplinary Knowledge Bridges Incubator will help facilitate the kind of solution-based research and teaching that is required to address problems such as climate change. Our campus master plan implementation team is already engaging the DU community to help choose the right urban planning firm to more efficiently use our physical spaces and environment for the future.

We hope you will read the report. The task force considered the moral and ethical dimensions of the issues, the role of academic institutions, the purpose of institutional investments, and the potential effectiveness of divestment as a means of achieving our common goals of creating a more sustainable University and addressing global climate change.

We want to thank the task force for its work, and also commend the experts and advocates in the community, as well as the public and private sector who came before them, including the members of Divest DU. We also appreciate the many other concerned students, alumni and members of our faculty and staff for taking part in the dialogue, and for giving life to sustainability efforts at DU. We are proud of the serious and robust conversations and the shared commitment to the public good that was demonstrated through this transparent process.

There will be many more conversations about these important issues and we will continue to report to the DU community on our efforts and results in this important area.

Please join us in thanking all who took part in this important process.


Doug Scrivner
Chair, Board of Trustees

Rebecca Chopp