How Students Can Make Their Universities Address The Climate Crisis | TOTUM
Melanie KeeMarch 9th
2022

Companies have a huge impact over the planet. They manufacture, produce, sell and employ. They are intertwined through our lives, and in many ways we rely on them to drive society. 

In fact, it was found in 2017 that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, and that figure is likely to have risen since.

Given the escalating environmental and social issues we face, it is encouraging to see that everywhere you look companies are making sustainability commitments. 

From the outside, it certainly looks like we’re making great progress, but if you look a bit closer there are some worrying disparities between words and action.

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Take banks for example. Many have recently pledged to become net zero but what does this mean if they continue to finance the destruction of our climate by funding fossil fuels?

Research shows that the biggest UK banks have poured £230 billion into the fossil fuel industry since The Paris Climate Agreement, including to build new fossil fuel infrastructure such as oil fields in the North Sea.

We need to encourage companies to get serious about commitments, implementing action and ensuring that statements are not just about looking good, but are actually doing good. For this, we can look to AGMs.

What is an AGM?

AGMs - Annual General Meetings - are a chance to hold companies to account, all public companies have to hold them. Investors in a company (known as shareholders) gather together each year to have a say over how the company is run. They have the opportunity to raise issues and have their say on the company’s performance and strategy, through voting. 

Shareholders also have the opportunity to table resolutions - similar to policy, meaning the company adopts commitments in the way they run their business.

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But what does this have to do with us as students?

Universities are often shareholders in companies. In fact, UK universities have over £15 billion in investments, and much of this is invested in public companies.

For example, your university might be invested in the bank Standard Chartered, and therefore have a direct vote on how they run. This would include voting on the shareholder resolution, put forward by Market Forces, calling for the bank to match its net zero rhetoric with action and stop the bank from funding new fossil fuels.

So, what can you do?

We need to demand that our universities support campaign groups calling for change at company AGMs.

SOS-UK run a campaign called Invest for Change, calling on university money to act in the interest of students, not against them. This means universities should be invested in environmental and social justice solutions - not harmful practices - and that they should use their influence to make change.

Invest for Change are calling for you to take AGM action:

  • Watch the video above to learn more about AGMs and the part universities have to play.

  • Sign (and share) the petition.

  • Call for your university to support – use our template email to write to your VC.

Is your university investing in Standard Chartered? Support Market Forces' shareholder resolution for no new fossil fuel funding with our template email

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