ANU backpedals on divestment blacklist

Australian National University chancellor Gareth Evans has expressed his regret over their resource company stock divestment.

In a letter to Santos CEO David Knox, Evans said the university regrets any embarrassment suffered by Santos over the decision to divest interests in the gas producer, AFR reported.

Evans wrote that although Santos was a contributor to social harm caused by CO2 emissions, ANU accepted that “the energy produced by Santos powers needed utilities and industries – contributing to the social good.

“The council will, of course, review its decision if it is persuaded that there are flaws in the methodology used by ANU’s consultants, CAER, to rank companies or if there are inaccuracies in the information relied on by CAER,” Evans wrote.

“Neither I nor the vice-chancellor nor any other ANU council member to my knowledge has described Santos specifically as a ‘socially irresponsible’ company.

“We are aware of the many positive contributions that your ­company, and some others from which we are divesting, have made to Australian society.”

ANU vice chancellor Ian Young made the announcement on October 3 that the university would divest its interests in seven mining companies selected by CAER because “we should not invest in companies that cause social harm”.

The move caused a political furore and public backlash from the miners who were included in the blacklisting, as they strongly objected to the implication that they were “socially irresponsible”.

Despite the divestment move being driven by the student-run ANU Environment Collective and the international divestment movement 350.org, the ANU did not divest interests in any coal producing companies in their portfolio.

According to the ANU Environment Collective, top fossil fuel producers currently in the ANU investment portfolio include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Wesfarmers, and Woodside Petroleum, as well as fossil fuel industry service providers Mermaid Marine and WorleyParsons.

ANU also hold shares in the big four Australian banks, all of which finance fossil fuel production.

Images: AFR, ANUEC