Divest Carleton alumni letter to President Byerly and Carleton Trustees

April 27, 2022 

Dear President Byerly and Carleton Trustees: 

As the alumni of Divest Carleton, we echo the support for an official Carleton plan for fossil fuel divestment expressed by Divest Carleton students and the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC). Below are our additional thoughts on how the College might implement such a plan and why we believe fossil fuel divestment is in Carleton’s best interest and aligns with its values. 

“Carleton College recognizes that it exists as part of interconnected communities that are impacted by personal and institutional choices. We are dedicated to investigating and promoting awareness of the current and future impacts of our actions in order to foster responsibility for these human and natural communities. Carleton strives to be a model of stewardship for the environment by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the College and the daily life of individuals.” 

-Carleton Environmental Statement of Principles, Endorsed by the Board of Trustees, Building and Grounds Committee, 18 May 2001 

Carleton, as an educational institution, has led in nurturing scientists and policy makers to address climate change; and as a physical institution, in implementing green campus infrastructure. The same values and intent that have driven Carleton to be a leader in these areas should compel the college to fully assess the role of its investment choices in promoting a sustainable future and to expand on the laudable steps already taken to incorporate environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and governance (ESG) factors into the Investment Manager Selection Process. 

We request that the College adopt the following policies, with the goal of abstaining from  investments in companies whose business practices are obstacles to the promotion of a  sustainable environment: 

  1. Commit to not having any publicly traded direct holdings in Fossil Fuel Companies. For the purposes of these policies, a Fossil Fuel Company is any company in the Carbon Underground 200, any company or asset whose primary business activity (50% or more of its revenues) is to locate, extract, or distribute fossil fuels for the production of energy, or any company or asset whose primary business activity is to provide infrastructure or field services to such companies.
  2. Commit to divesting from any illiquid investments, including fossil fuel real assets (such as mineral rights), in Fossil Fuel Companies when there is no longer a contractual penalty for doing so or there is an economically practicable way to divest prior to that time. Commit to making no new illiquid investments in Fossil Fuel Companies.
  3. Commit to making no new investments in, and divesting within three months from, any fossil-fuel focused index fund, exchange-traded fund, mutual fund, hedge fund, or public partnership. Commit to preferring fossil-free funds over similar funds that are not fossil free.
  4. Commit to terminate business dealings with, and refuse to hire, all fossil-fuel focused financial managers. Commit to preferring managers who specialize in ESG investments and/or hold fossil-free portfolios over similar managers who do not specialize in ESG investments or hold fossil-free portfolios.
  5. Commit to making no new investments in, and divesting within three months from, direct investments in banks, holding companies, or insurance companies with more than $20 billion invested in or dedicated to financing Fossil Fuel Companies. (Example: list of banks on page five of this document details their financing of fossil fuel companies by year.) Commit to preferring sustainability-focused banks, holding companies, and insurance companies over similar companies that have no focus on sustainability.
  6. Commit to seeking and investing in companies whose primary business purpose is to support the transition to a sustainable economy, through means such as generating renewable energy, building energy-efficient infrastructure, developing batteries for electric cars or storing solar energy, etc.
  7. Commit to producing, and making available to the Carleton community, an annual report on the College’s progress on implementing these policies.

We hold that these policies are in the best interest of the College and in alignment with its values, for the following reasons: 

  1. Carleton has publicly committed to the goal of transitioning to a green economy.  Making the requested changes to the endowment would demonstrate Carleton’s  commitment to that goal. 
  2. Carleton has already greatly drawn down its investments in fossil fuels as part of its commitment to ESG principles. Divesting from the remaining liquid investments, letting the illiquid investments phase out, committing to staying out of similar investments, and taking the other actions requested would advance its commitments to ESG principles.
  3. Reducing Carleton’s investments in fossil fuels has widespread support among students and alumni.
  4. News reports and lawsuits have shown that Fossil Fuel Companies deliberately mislead the public about the harms of their products and practices. By continuing to invest in these companies, the college is complicit in this harm.
  5. If our society is to transition to a sustainable economy and limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement, we must stop burning fossil fuels. Aligning Carleton’s endowment with the economy of the future rather than the doomed past makes financial sense.
  6. The very existence and functioning of Carleton is already threatened by climate change, and this threat will increase with time. The window of opportunity to prevent the most catastrophic events from occurring is rapidly narrowing. Carleton must do everything it can, as soon as possible, to preserve a livable future for itself and the entire Carleton community.

For all these reasons, we believe that Carleton would serve its interests and adhere to its values best by joining the growing number of colleges and universities that have committed to divestment. 

The Alumni of Divest Carleton 

Gina Atwood ‘91 
Melinda Bell ‘80 
Pam Costain ‘72 
Patrick Dunlevy ‘72 
Eleanor Haase ‘79 
Rebecca Hahn ‘09 
Maddie Halloran ‘14 
Britta Johnson ‘97 
David Loy ‘69
Kathryn Olney P’15
Joan Rabinowitz ‘68 
Joshua Rabinowitz ‘66 
Mikaela Robertson ‘09 
Peter Scheuermann ‘12 
Karl Snyder ‘12 
Dimitri Smirnoff ‘15 
Brett Smith ‘64 
Ben Stiegler ‘77 
Rev Dwight Wagenius ‘64