In a press release shared with EM last week in response to the occupation of the Sanders Building, the Executive Board wrote that both EUR and the Trust Fund had stopped investing in fossil fuels. “What we can say with certainty is that Erasmus University Rotterdam does not invest in the fossil fuel industry, not even through the Trust Fund”, the press release claimed.

Not long afterwards, EM was forwarded a new version of the press release in which the Trust Fund was no longer mentioned. The official reason given for the correction was that the Trust Fund, as a separate foundation, preferred issuing press releases of its own accord rather than being mentioned in the EUR release.

Factually incorrect

However, it now appears that there was another reason for removing the phrase: it was factually incorrect. Further inquiries have revealed that the Trust Fund still invests in fossil fuels after all. According to the Trust Fund’s director Margot Bleeker, the fund invests in index funds (bundles of shares that track a certain index) with an ‘ESG mark’. ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social and corporate Governance, can be regarded as a standard for sustainable investments.  Bleeker: “The index funds that we invest in exclude a number of fossil fuel segments. However, this doesn’t mean that these index funds don’t invest in fossil fuels at all.”

Certain fossil fuel segments are explicitly excluded, including thermal coal, shale gas, tar sands and Arctic oil and gas.

No reason to change policy

The director does not expect the Trust Fund’s current investment policy to change any time soon. “The Erasmus Trust Fund sets great store by sustainable asset management. This is always a factor for consideration in the periodic evaluation of our investment policy. We currently see no reason to change that policy.”

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