The campaign calling on The Open University (OU) to divest from fossil fuel companies, Fossil Free OU, protested with like-minded people and groups at the Walton Hall Campus in Milton Keynes a couple of weeks ago to coincide with a meeting by The OU Council. The OU Council are the executive governing body of The OU who will make the ultimate decision on divestment from fossil fuel companies.
A spokesperson for Fossil Free OU said “We were forced to protest at The OU campus because The OU has met calls from students, graduates, academic and non-academic staff, donors, societies, clubs and others for divestment from fossil fuel companies with what can be described as a criminal level of indifference and apathy. Almost 500 people have already signed a petition calling on The OU to divest from fossil fuel companies”.
The OU advised on the 5th of March 2018 that while they do not currently hold any direct investments in fossil fuel companies they hold no plans to not invest directly in these companies in the future. The OU also claimed on the 5th of March 2018 that they do not even hold any information about whether or not if they currently have any indirect investments in fossil fuel companies.
The OU then confirmed on the 8th of March 2018 that in 2017 they had £381.4 million invested across government stock, investment funds, money market funds and banks including Barclays.
Barclays finance both conventional and unconventional coal, oil and gas inclusive of tar sands and shale gas/fracking. Through just their investments in Barclays alone, if they are still investing in Barclays, The OU are indirectly investing in fossil fuel companies. The OU has not confirmed any more recent details of their investments. The OU then claimed on the 16th of April 2018 that they are unaware of even any reviews by The OU Investment Committee, The OU Finance Committee or The OU Council of their investments in relation to fossil fuel companies.
It’s simple. If it’s wrong to wreck the climate and pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage and pollution. Fossil fuel companies are driving climate crisis and have successfully delayed action on climate change for decades. It’s time for our institutions to take a stand and cut their financial ties with fossil fuel companies. A single penny invested is a penny too much. So far 65 British and two Irish universities have committed to divest from fossil fuels in some form. The National Union of Students also support the fossil free movement.
This is why Fossil Free OU is calling on the Council of The Open University (OU) to:
1. Immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies.
2. Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.
Fossil Free OU requested a comment from The OU on Thursday the 24th of May about the protest and the calls for divestment from fossil fuel companies. The OU promised to make a comment but they have failed to do so to date.
About the Author: the author studied International Studies at The Open University before studying Environment and Sustainable Development at University College London. They are currently participating in a number of campaigns and movements struggling for and helping to make a socially and environmentally just and sustainable world.