Spring 2020 Environmental, Social, & Governance Responsibility Task Force
Task Force's Report
Following the recommendation of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Responsibility Task Force, the Board of Trustees pledged to not make any new investments in businesses that derive the majority of their revenue from the extraction of fossil fuels and agreed to eliminate 100 percent of all such investments from its endowment over the next five years.
In addition, the task force made recommendations around campus sustainability, carbon neutrality, responsible investing and academics that the board has also accepted.
The task force, made up of trustees, students, alumni, faculty and staff, sought out feedback from the broader GW community in a series of town halls and online forums to develop its report.
About the Task Force
The Board of Trustees created the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Responsibility Task Force to establish a long-term, proactive approach to managing ESG responsibility.
Many members of the university community, including students, have said that they want to ensure the Board would listen and engage on these issues. The Board understands the importance of this critical work, and is committed to fulfilling its oversight duties with robust input and collaboration from the GW community.
The Board worked with the Student Association, the Faculty Senate and the GW Alumni Association to identify representatives to serve. Trustee Peter Harrison served as chair of the Task Force.
The Trustees formed the ESG Responsibility Task Force to seek input from our community and provide guidance to the Board on achieving these objectives:
- Providing an institutional statement of beliefs on environmental, social and governance responsibility.
- Addressing a broad range of environmental, social and governance issues.
- Establishing a process to consider proposals from the GW community.
- Promoting education, research and intellectual debate.
- Informing constituents about policies, practices and obligations.
- Richard W. Blackburn, Emeritus Trustee
- Meghan Chapple, Director of the Office of Sustainability
- Somender Chaudhary, GWAA Executive Committee Member
- Peter Harrison, Trustee, Chair of the Task Force
- Donald E. Hawkins, Professor Emeritus of Tourism Policy
- Michael Hoffman, Trustee
- Thomas LeBlanc, President, ex officio
- Jeremy Liskar, Undergraduate Student
- Melani McAlister, Professor of American Studies and International Affairs
- Tara Scully, Assistant Professor of Biology & Director Sustainability Minor
- Grace Speights, Chair of the Board of Trustees, ex officio
- Dorinda Tucker, Associate Vice President for Ethics, Compliance, and Risk, and Chief Privacy Officer
- Jillian Webber, Undergraduate Student
- George W. Wellde, Jr., Trustee
Spring 2020 Timeline
- Task Force meetings
- Update to the Faculty Senate
- Task Force meetings
- Community Outreach
- Update the Board of Trustees
- Recommendations to the Board of Trustees
Previous Update on the Task Force's Work
Following the charge from Board Chair Grace Speights, the task force has accelerated its work plan, focusing first on the “environmental” issues in ESG. The task force drafted a set of initial recommendations below.
- Draft Recommendations
We are recommending that the board approve the following actions to be incorporated into GW’s sustainability plan:
- Effective immediately, commit to not making any new investments either directly or via private funds that invest in businesses that derive the majority of their revenues from the extraction of fossil fuel (including all forms of coal, oil and natural gas).
- Commit to divest the university endowment from all public and private securities of companies that focus on the extraction of fossil fuels by 2025. While we recognize the challenge of eliminating fossil fuel investments in the entire endowment, we are committed to driving this percentage to zero in this same time-frame. We also commit to engaging with companies and investment managers to accelerate their transition to renewable energy and fossil-free portfolios.
- Commit to accelerate our plans to achieve carbon neutrality and release a plan for climate resilience for the university’s operations. Previously envisioned for 2040, we commit to accelerate this timeline to at least 2030. In commemoration of GW’s bicentennial celebration in 2021, we also aspire to going beyond carbon neutral post-2030 in an effort to remove most if not all the greenhouse gas emissions the university has produced since its founding in 1821.
- Commit to ensuring our campus becomes a role-model for urban sustainability by capturing stormwater, providing more outdoor green spaces to improve biodiversity, converting all university operated transportation to zero-emissions vehicles, and phasing out all single-use plastics across the university, among other sustainability initiatives. As evidence of this leadership we should commit to reaching STARS Platinum by 2025 and continue to set target dates and publicly disclose our performance through the Sustainability Tracking and Reporting System and the GW Sustainability Progress Report.
- Commit to enhancing GW’s leadership concerning the education of future leaders, nurturing new knowledge and innovative thinking, including scientific and technological discoveries, as well as the scholarly analysis of the political, cultural, and social issues to address climate change. In addition, we commit to encouraging decision makers and societal leaders to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We will drive support for interdisciplinary education, research, and proactive engagement on climate change and sustainability initiatives, including innovative living lab projects.