Since mid-2019, Middlebury’s investment manager, Investure, has not directly invested any new dollars on Middlebury’s behalf in specialized private investment funds that focus on fossil fuels.
In collaboration with Investure, Middlebury has begun a phaseout of direct fossil fuel investments in the endowment, which will reduce the value of those investments as follows:
- 25 percent by 2024.
- 50 percent by 2027.
- 100 percent by 2034.
Middlebury and Investure have established realistic and reasonable reduction targets to ensure the phaseout does not significantly impact the performance of the endowment.
Following the Lead of Students
Persistence, timing, and coordination paid off. As with many campaigns around the world, the Middlebury student-led divest campaign began around 2011. The Board of Trustees voted in 2013 to not divest but to invest significantly in sustainability-related investments and to develop more robust ESG (environmental social governance) principles to guide future investments.
Energy2028 emerged from a student-led campaign and with an initiative of the Environmental Council in response to President Patton’s request to develop a blueprint for the next version of Middlebury’s response to the climate crisis after carbon neutrality was achieved. In 2019 the Board of Trustees voted to approve divestment over the next 15 years as part of Energy2028.
With the divestment goal, Middlebury has signaled its deep concern about moving the economy more quickly to green energy sources and investments. That also means focusing on increasing sustainable investments while we divest from fossil fuels.
Ahead of Schedule
Since 2018 the Middlebury endowment portfolio has reduced its specialized fossil fuel exposure by 44 percent. This was driven by the liquidation of the public energy exposure in 2020 and declines in the value of certain natural resource investments in the private portfolio. Sustainability-related investments in the endowment as of December 31, 2020, represent about $96 million or about 7 percent.
Divesting from Fossil Fuels and Investing in Sustainability
Since 2013 Middlebury’s endowment has put an emphasis on sustainability-related investing. As of December 31, 2020, about 16 percent of the endowment is in sustainability-related investments, having risen steadily from 4 percent in 2013 when the board chose not to divest but committed to increasing sustainability-related investments.
An Internal Carbon Tax
The Environmental Council developed a proposal for establishing an internal carbon tax that would be applied to the carbon emissions of College-purchased travel and building energy usage. The proposal recommended a $40 per ton tax on carbon emissions over a declining cap, which would be set each year out to 2028 and which would equate to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions from those sources. While the tax proposal has been approved, its implementation has been delayed by COVID circumstances and a changeover to a new accounting system. The proposed mechanism is being revised for piloting in FY22.