Stanford University announced Tuesday that it would divest its $18.7 billion endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, becoming the first major university to lend support to a nationwide campaign to purge endowments and pension funds of fossil-fuel investments.
The university said it acted in accordance with internal guidelines that allow its trustees to consider whether “corporate policies or practices create substantial social injury” when choosing investments. Coal’s status as a major source of carbon pollution linked to climate change persuaded the trustees to remove companies “whose principal business is coal” from their investment portfolio, the university said.
Stanford’s associate vice president for communications, Lisa Lapin, said the decision covers about 100 companies worldwide that derive the majority of their revenue from coal extraction. Overall, Stanford’s coal holdings are a small fraction of its endowment.
“But a small percentage is still a substantial amount of money,” she added.
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The decision carries more symbolic than financial weight, but it is a big victory for a rapidly growing student-led divestment movement that is now active at roughly 300 universities.