Issues with Columbia’s Divestment Policy

So, if Columbia released a formal divestment policy in 2020, why do we still care?

The divestment policy is riddled with gaps and loopholes, and a lack of transparency on endowment investments denies anybody the ability to hold the endowment board accountable for the words they have released.

You can read Columbia’s current Investment Policy on Fossil Fuels here (approved Jan 2021).


  • There are no publicly available investment listings –> there is no way to hold Columbia’s endowment accountable to the words in the investment policy.
  • “Columbia will not make new investments in private funds that primarily invest in oil and gas companies” -> the word “primarily” remains undefined. There is no standard or numeric that defines what funds Columbia is okay with investing in. This allows Columbia to take advantage of indirectly investing in fossil fuel companies (i.e., simply investing in a fund that invests in the companies rather than into the companies directly).
  • Allowed in this policy are securities, mutual funds, private equity, and other holdings acquired through the stock exchange that directly fund fossil fuel companies.
  • The Board recognizes that certain oil and gas companies aim to develop credible plans for transitioning their businesses to net zero emissions by 2050, including establishing clear interim targets…the Board may make exceptions to its non-investment policy” –> while this decision will be made off a report from ACSRI (The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing), we do not know how a “credible” 2050 plan is defined. Currently, you can look up virtually any company, especially a fossil fuel company, and a 2050 plan will be listed. How specifically will this be evaluated?
  • Scope 2 and Scope 3 Emissions are not currently included in the Divestment policy. Scope 2 refers to emissions from the consumption of purchased electricity, heat, or steam; Scope 3 refers to emissions that result due to operations happening by an institution but not stemming from sources owned by the institution.

Check out Recent Divestment Efforts to see how Sunrise, along with Columbia Policy Institute’s Energy & Environment Center, have been working to push for a more well-rounded and transparent divestment policy.