Stanford University to sell off coal investments in environmental move

Stanford University campus.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Stanford University announced Tuesday that it would join the growing cadre of U.S. campuses moving to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies because of concerns about climate change.

The Stanford Board of Trustees approved a resolution pledging not to directly invest in companies for which coal extraction is their primary business and will divest any current holdings in such companies, the university said.

Stanford is the largest and most prestigious school to join a national campaign to divest in fossil fuel stock as a result of pressure from student activists. Pitzer College, San Francisco State and two community college districts in Northern California are among about a dozen schools nationwide that are divesting out of concern that the burning of fossil fuels is damaging the environment and causing climate change.

“Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for our planet, and we work intensively to do so through our research, our educational programs and our campus operations,” said Stanford President John Hennessy. “Moving away from coal in the investment context is a small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.”

Other schools and universities, such as the UC system, have resisted doing so, arguing that divestiture could cause considerable damage to their financial holdings.


Stanford, with an endowment valued at $18.7 billion as of Aug. 21, 2013, does not disclose its holdings or their value, but a spokeswoman said the current investment in fossil fuel companies was not enough to have “significant impact” on the portfolio.

Fossil Free Stanford, a student-led organization, petitioned the university last year as part of the wider national campaign.