Revealed: University investments in defence contractors, oil firms and chemical companies

  • Freedom of Information request reveals University invests £35,693,626 through its investment manager

  • Record of investments reveals £38,756 investment in Lockheed Martin, world’s largest defence contractor

  • £391,116 invested in United Technologies Corporation, a developer of missile systems and military helicopters

  • Hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in petroleum companies, including BP and Royal Dutch Shell

  • University: “We are discussing the situation with the managers”

By Henry Clare, and

Palatine-Centre-

A Freedom of Information request has revealed Durham University invested millions of pounds, through an investment manager, in defence contractors, petroleum companies and chemical companies in the last quarter of 2014.

The total investment portfolio, seen by Palatinate, adds up to £35,693,626.

Rather than investing directly in shares, the University uses an investment manager at Sarasin & Partners to invest in pooled funds.

The comes months after students were told that one third of accommodation fees, which will rise by over 8% next year, will go towards “capital and borrowing expenditure”.

Durham Students’ for University Reform have since organised a number of protests in response to the accommodation fee hike.

A record of investments from the last quarter of 2014 shows that the University invested £38,756, through Sarasin & Partners, in Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor.

Lockheed Martin generates the vast amount of its revenue through military sales, such as Trident missiles and fighter jets.

£391,116 was also invested in the United Technologies Corporation, a multinational conglomerate that develops high-technology products in numerous areas including missile systems and military helicopters.

In a statement, the University told Palatinate that it “has no direct investments in tobacco or armaments in accordance with the policy mandate given to the investment managers.

“The managers have made an investment in a Sarasin Global Equity Investment Fund which has a modest holding in Lockheed Martin, a US defence contractor. These shares, which are held indirectly, represent 0.1% of our total investment portfolio.

“We are discussing the situation with the managers.”

The vast list of companies which the University invested in through their investment manager includes Amazon.com INC (£197,565), Daily Mail and General Trust plc (£139,179) and Vodafone Group PLC (£808,560).

The records also show investments in renewable energy, including a £107,622 investment in Ceres Power, a developer of low cost, next generation fuel cell technology.

The University also invested in a number of mining and chemical companies through their investment manager, such as £217,104 in BHP Billiton PLC, £194,385 in Rio Tinto PLC and £102,810 in Sociedad Química y Minera.

The Freedom of Information request shows £389,249 of investment in oil and gas company BG Group PLC, £278,388 in BP PLC and £254,680 in Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

The report also identifies £182,720 worth of investment in Anadarko Petroleum, £52,035 in Carin Energy PLC, £32,940 in Tullow Oil PLC and £10,307 in Petrobras.

UnitedTechnologiesLogoRegarding these investments, the University told Palatinate: “The University’s investment policy does not proscribe investment in petroleum companies.”

 

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It added in a separate statement: “Durham University is committed to reducing its environmental impact and improving the local environment.

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“We have no plans to withdraw from investing in or engaging in research financed by fossil fuel companies. The issue of carbon emissions is hugely complex and significant for the future of our planet, but we recognise that there are no viable alternatives to fossil fuels yet available at the scale required for the predominant forms of current energy use, i.e. heat and transport.

“In addition, fossil fuels underpin modern food production methods, through the use of fertilisers, and the chemical and process industries which produce a vast array of plastic and pharmaceutical products.

“We will continue to engage with the fossil fuel and other industries in carrying out research on alternative, sustainable geoenergy resources such as geothermal and CCS.”

The University also referred Palatinate to its Greenspace website for more information on its approach to sustainability.

In relation to its investments, the University had previously admitted that: “Whilst periodic reports of the underlying investments of the pooled funds are received from the investment manager, these are not retained on our files.”

Consequently a previous Freedom of Information Act request by Durham University’s People and Planet society petitioning the University to provide a list of the companies the University currently invests in through its endowment funds and its investment manager, along with the amount invested in each company, was rejected.

The University concluded their statement by saying: “Our investment policy is scheduled to be reviewed in 2015. The review will involve consultation with the Ethics Advisory Committee, the Finance and General Purposes Committee and University Council. Students are represented on all these bodies.”

The full investment report can be viewed here.

Photographs: Rose Innes and Wikimedia Commons

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