USC to divest from fossil fuel industry

The Investment Committee announced the University endowment will be detaching from the fossil fuel industry.

USC Building

The Investment Committee of the USC Board of Trustees announced Feb. 18 that the university will be freezing new investments in fossil fuels and dissolving current fossil fuel investments over the next several years. This decision comes on the heels of last October’s relaunching of DivestSC, a USC student-led organization that advocates for the selling and redistribution of USC’s investments in the fossil fuel industry. Around the same time, Amy Diamond was named as USC’s chief investment officer.

“This has been a discussion with the board and the administration since before I joined, and the decision by the investment committee was to wait until there was a new Chief Investment Officer to relook at the fossil fuel strategy,” Diamond told Annenberg Media. “Coming on board, I met with the student groups and received correspondence from the faculty senate and other constituents. Combining that with my financial analysis, we decided it was time to put the policy in place that you see.”

In addition to the reallocation of the endowment’s investments, the policy also includes the creation of an Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility, which will be made up of members of the Trojan community. The group will advise the Investment Committee on ethical and social issues pertaining to the university’s investments moving forward.

As for the investments that the institution currently holds, Diamond estimated they will be liquidated in five years.

“We’re giving ourselves some additional time just in case there’s straggler investments,” she noted. “Because the primary objective is to do as little harm to the endowment as possible since the payout from the endowment supports the academic and research mission of the university. We want to make sure we don’t do any harm to the portfolio”

Economics aside, the stance taken by the university was in unity. Diamond emphasized it wasn’t the Investment Committee alone that influenced this decision. DivestSC, the Undergraduate Student Government and the USC Faculty Academic Senate all also played a pivotal role in the decision

“I really commend Dr. Folt, and I commend the student group and the faculty senate and all of their input on this because this really was a group effort,” Diamond said. “It really showed a unified view and support of sustainability across the constituents. It’s a day to celebrate.”

This announcement is another evolution in USC’s effort to emphasize sustainability practices across the university, part of an “environmental master plan” that is intended to guide the institution towards increased sustainability in the next eight years.