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August 7, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Ethical Investment for VUW

For the first time in 28 years, the renewal of the VUW Foundation’s funding proposal was discussed with students.

On August 2, trustees and board members of the Foundation, Brent Manning and Craig Stevens, hosted a public panel at Rutherford House to discuss the Foundation’s ethical investment policies.

The Foundation manages and invests money donated to the university by alumni and other donors. In 2014, it made the decision to rule out any direct investments in fossil fuels, in response to a global campaign and student pressure to shift investments away from the fossil fuel industry.

With the funding proposal now up for renewal, the panel was an opportunity for students to voice their opinions about the Foundation’s investment decisions.

Both Stevens and Manning discussed the importance, especially in 2017, for investors to think ethically, sharing their policy to not invest in industries or organisations whose purposes do not “meet generally accepted ethical standards or that do not align with the values and objectives of the university.” Their current areas for investment exclusion were armaments, tobacco, gambling, and carbon emitting fossil fuels.

Manning argued that, although the Foundation had made a point to exclude certain areas of investment, “one person’s idea of ethical doesn’t align with another’s view of it,” and companies that supported alcohol, sugar, the sex industry, and child labour were not directly excluded for investments.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin, who attended the event, was asked by an audience member about the VUWSA Foundation’s investment fund. He stated that their ethical policy was similar to that of the VUW Foundation.

Students in attendance raised questions about fair trade and gender equality. Manning and Stevens both voiced a personal support of investing in companies that supported gender equality, but admitted that of the 12 trustees of the Foundation, only two were women.

Throughout the panel, Manning and Stevens discussed the trustees’ role in decision making. Due to their lack of experience and knowledge in particular investment schemes, the board’s job was not to make direct decision making about investment, but to raise money for the fund by seeking donations through their own personal connections.

Stevens stated that although it would not be efficient to have a board that was representative of all students at VUW, “we have talked with people like Grant Guilford about positively discriminating so that we can have Pasifika women on the board,” to help move forward on the board’s goal of building a fale for VUW.

“The best way we can help [make this happen] is to get connected with people who want to donate.”

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