The University of Edinburgh is moving £60 million of its investments into businesses that will directly benefit the environment as part of its ‘Zero by 2040’ Climate Strategy.
The investments have been made into two dedicated funds that support companies intent on creating a cleaner, more sustainable and more environmentally friendly future.
The first of these deals with a range of sustainability issues, including the need for greener products and low-carbon infrastructure. It also backs companies that address the challenge of sourcing sustainable water, energy and food.
The second fund is focused on financing renewable technologies and directly supporting a global effort to increase the use of renewable and low-carbon technology.
These new investments are a re-commitment to the University’s 2015 pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 in support of a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Phil McNaull, University of Edinburgh’s Director of Finance, said in a press release, “This is a major change to our investment fund to selectively invest in funds making a more positive contribution to environmental sustainability.”
Dave Gorman, the University’s Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, reiterated the significance of the investment funds explaining, “This substantial investment will deliver an impact for society. It will enable new and establish technologies and enable the creation of jobs in new industries.”
In recent years, the University has been making strides in becoming a more sustainable institution. In 2013 it became the first university in Europe to join Principles for Responsible Investment, a UN-backed initiative to make the global system more sustainable.
Additionally, the university has invested over £30 million into low-carbon technology across campus, including energy efficient buildings. It has also attracted over £50 million in investments for climate-related research funding.
In 2016, the University of Edinburgh divested funding from three major coal and tar sand companies, Shell, RTZ and BHP Billiton, signalling their commitment to only supporting environmentally conscious institutions.
The University also vowed to pressure fossil fuel companies into measuring and monitoring their carbon emissions and to implement energy efficient methods across the supply chain of fossil fuel production, refinement and use.
Oliver Glick, Vice President Community at Edinburgh University Student’s Association, has voiced strong support for the funding initiative.
He said, “Students have shown a real passion in the last few years for a more sustainable university. Any move in this direction is appreciated by the Student’s Association and we hope that the university continues to prioritise sustainability.”
Also included in the new investment plan is the distribution of £1 million into Big Issue Invest’s Social Enterprise Investment Fund II. This fund invests in social enterprises and charities that tackle some of the country’s toughest social problems such as homelessness, social and financial exclusion and youth unemployment. The University of Edinburgh’s investment is the largest financial investment into social enterprise ever made by a UK university.
The People & Planet’s University League is the only comprehensive and independent league table that ranks UK universities on environmental and ethical performance. Among the Russell Group universities, Edinburgh ranked 7th, tied with the University of Warwick. However, when placed among all UK universities, the ranking fell to 34th.
The university’s investment is a major step in re-affirming its commitment to ensuring the progression of sustainability on campus and in Scotland and the UK. While further advancements and improvements can be made, it is a promising step towards a more sustainable future.
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