We lobby and campaign for universities not to invest in arms companies. We want universities to drop their shares in arms companies, and also for them to adopt ethical investment policies to ensure that no new arms company shares can be bought. Divestment (dis-investment) sends out a powerful message that we do not see arms companies as legitimate companies to do business with.
Many UK universities invest in arms companies, often without the knowledge or approval of their students, staff and beneficiaries.
Investments may be direct (by holding shares in an individual arms company such as BAE Systems), or indirect (e.g. by investing in an investment fund which itself invests in arms companies). This provides some financial support for the arms trade and sends a message that arms companies are legitimate companies with which to do business, despite the devastation caused by the arms trade.
Freedom of Information requests. Company research. Meetings with university staff. Spreading the word. Info nights. Nights in with friends looking through investment portfolios (more fun then it sounds, I promise you). Making long term change on campus.
Universities invest in arms companies for many reasons, and this could be an interesting topic for a debate on your campus. Many arms company share prices have risen following 9/11 and the “war on terror”, universities face increasing financial pressures, and universities want to maintain good relationships with companies from whom they receive research funding. Also, without pressure from students like you, there may simply be nothing stopping them from doing so.
Universities shouldn’t invest in any companies which facilitate the devastation caused by the global arms trade. Rolls-Royce, for example, is a massive manufacturer of military aero engines used by about 160 armed forces globally, including Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The fact that they also have civilian projects shouldn’t get these companies off the hook!
Divestment is financially viable; a number of universities have already set an example through divesting (e.g. St Andrews, Goldsmiths, Bangor and SOAS). The adoption of an ethical investment policy has also proved possible (e.g. Bangor).
Yes! Divestment sends out a powerful message that we do not see arms companies as legitimate companies with which to do business. While universities often invest relatively small amounts of money into arms companies, the damage done to arms company reputations by divestment is bigger than the financial impact of divestment. And the more universities that divest, the more of an impact we’ll have!