Who: Barnard College has established criteria that it and other organizations can use to assess a company’s attitudes and behaviors with respect to climate science and climate change. 

This step is a follow-up after the College’s Board of Trustees approved in March 2017 to divest from fossil fuel companies that dispute evidence of climate science or otherwise seek to thwart efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change. Barnard is the first college to take this innovative approach to divestment, consistent with its mission as an academic institution supporting the open exchange of scientific information, the free flow of information and transparency. 

What: Over the past several months the College’s internal divestment working group devised the following six criteria:

  • What is the company’s position on climate change?
  • What action is the company taking to reduce its carbon footprint?
  • Is climate science integral to the governance and oversight of the company?
  • What are the company’s affiliations with third parties that spread disinformation on climate science?
  • Does the company publicly support the need for climate policies and regulations?
  • Has the company been publicly transparent about their position, actions and affiliations with regard to climate science and climate change?? 

The College will work with Fossil Free Indexes (FFI), creators of The Carbon Underground 200 (CU200) list, to help refine its criteria and scoring methodology. FFI, with the support of the Union of Concerned Scientists, will vet a subset of companies from their CU200 oil and gas list, devising a climate action list on the College’s behalf.   

FFI CEO Christopher Ito said of the project, “We are pleased to be part of this collaboration and are grateful to be working alongside the Union of Concerned Scientists. Our efforts will enable Barnard to take a nuanced and thoughtful approach to the divestment question consistent with the College’s values." 

The climate action list will be publicly available in spring of 2018 along with supporting information that Barnard and other organizations can use to determine which companies to invest or exclude from investment.  

Why: Barnard College enjoys a long history as a pioneer in environmental research and education, and is currently involved in a number of sustainability initiatives. The divestment plan is unique in higher education and aligns the College’s investments with its core mission. It will enable the College to distinguish between companies based on their behavior and willingness to transition to a cleaner economy and could create incentives for the poorest performers to change their ways.
Beth Kwon