The Australian National University adopted a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Policy in July 2013, becoming at the time one of only a handful of Universities who use responsible investment policies as a tool for active investment. The SRI is also a recognition of the responsibility that the University has as an institutional investor in advancing its objectives on social responsibility and sustainability issues.
In October 2015, ANU Council decided to move away from direct management of its domestic investment portfolio, and instead appointed an external portfolio manager to improve the management of its endowment.
Under this system, ANU makes no decisions itself about any individual stocks but requires its external manager to meet the following conditions:
- Exclude companies that draw more than 20 per cent of revenues from coal, gambling, tobacco or pornography.
- Weight the portfolio to reduce carbon intensity (tonnes of CO2 produced per $1 million of revenue) to ensure that it is at least 25 per cent lower than the ASX 200.
- Ensure that the portfolio demonstrates a 10 per cent improvement in the overall Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) rating relative to the ASX 200 benchmark.
This was done to more efficiently decrease the University's investment exposure to CO2 intensive industries without increasing the University's exposure to volatility in the equities market. If this balance was not managed it might adversely impact the University's financial stability, including its ability to meet obligations to pay superannuation liabilities.
The portfolio the University holds changes from day to day, but as a result of these October changes, ANU decreased the CO2 intensity of its domestic portfolio from 276 tonnes/$1m (in Sep 2015) to 169 tonnes/$1m (in October 2015) - a 39 per cent decrease in CO2 intensity compared to the previous policy.
As of February 2016, the ANU domestic portfolio CO2 intensity was 154 tonnes/$1m, compared to 352 tonnes/$1m in September 2014 before ANU began its divestment strategy. The CO2 intensity of the ANU portfolio has decreased by a factor of 2.3, i.e. more than halved.
While a small component of this decrease is due to market factors beyond ANU control, it is mainly due to the University's deliberate policy to limit exposure to CO2 intensive industries.
The University will continue to evaluate the methods available to simultaneously meet its obligations to achieve a high and stable return on its investment portfolio and decrease its CO2 intensity. These efforts are a part of an overall commitment to making ANU a more sustainable university, and to contribute as best we can to the overall goal of global carbon emission reduction.