The foundation that oversees the University of Massachusetts’ $770 million endowment said Thursday that it will divest any holdings it has in coal companies, in a move to address concerns over global climate change.
“We believe this action sends an important message about the urgency of climate change and the University community’s commitment to addressing it,” UMass Foundation Inc. executive vice president Charles J. Pagnam said in a statement. “At the same time, our policy protects the Foundation’s primary mission of maximizing the investment returns on funds donated for research, academic programs, financial aid, and other purposes.’’
The foundation’s board of directors endorsed the divestment plan with input from the Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee, created in November 2014, whose members were drawn from UMass faculty, alumni, and students, the statement said.
The foundation would not disclose the amount of money it had in coal interests, but described the holdings as only a small portion of its portfolio.
The carbon divestment issue has sparked protests at college campuses across the country in recent years as students try to end financial support for industries some experts believe are contributing to climate changes in the polar regions.
UMass becomes the second public university system in the region, after the University of Maine, to pledge to divest from the coal industry, according to the group Fossil Free, an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward fossil fuel divestment.
Nationally, single universities, including Stanford and Georgetown, have divested from coal. Other schools, such as Syracuse University and Hampshire College, have pledged to divest their entire fossil fuel portfolios.
Since 2007, the UMass system has also reduced its carbon emissions by an average of 4 percent per year.
The UMass Foundation is a private, nonprofit corporation created in 1950 to help draw attention and donations to support the system’s five campuses.John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.