McGill University will divest from all direct holdings in fossil-fuel companies listed in the Carbon Underground 200 (CU200) for implementation in 2024 and completion in 2025 – one of eight commitments announced today in Phase 2 of the University’s results-driven socially responsible investment strategy.
This divestment will involve the liquidation of the remaining direct CU200 holdings within the McGill Investment Pool (MIP) – holdings which constituted just 0.5% of total MIP assets as of December 31, 2022, after years of targeted decarbonization. At that point in time, more than 99% of the MIP was held outside the CU200, with a sizeable proportion held in sustainable investments.
Though divestment from the MIP’s minimal remaining direct CU200 holdings sends an important symbolic message, McGill has long held that maximizing its impact means minimizing its carbon footprint. This has involved shareholder engagement with companies on decarbonization targets, and focusing divestment efforts on firms that may not extract fossil fuels directly but use them in highly emissions-intensive industries (cement and steel manufacturers, coal and gas-fired electricity generators, and other firms that drive global fossil fuel demand).
That results-driven approach remains fundamental to McGill’s decarbonization plan and socially responsible investment strategy. This focus on curtailing emissions has already sparked a massive 49% reduction in the MIP’s listed equity portfolio carbon footprint between 2019 and 2022.
“From expanding our decarbonization target, to divesting from direct CU200 holdings, to doubling our investments in solutions to the global challenges outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, McGill is proud to be leading sustainable investment across Canada’s university landscape,” said Maryse Bertrand, Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors.
“In just three years we’ve removed about 73,000 tonnes of annual carbon emissions from the MIP, the equivalent of removing more than 14,000 gas vehicles from the road every year,” added Sophie Leblanc, McGill’s Chief Investment Officer. “Now we are challenging ourselves to be even more ambitious and invest further in emerging clean technologies and renewable energy infrastructure.”
“While developing our new commitments,” Leblanc noted, “we carefully reviewed the socially responsible investment strategies of other major Canadian universities. We are confident that the breadth of actions McGill announced today will cement its place at the forefront of sustainable investment among our Canadian peers.”
These commitments, approved by McGill’s Board of Governors on December 14, include:
- Sustaining a carbon footprint at least 33% below emissions generated by companies in McGill’s listed equity and fixed income benchmarks, which are outlined within McGill’s Statement of Investment Policy.
- Allocating 10% of the MIP to Sustainable Investment Strategies aligned with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) by 2029.
- Enhancing our engagement initiatives by broadening the scope of topics to encompass social and governance considerations, while continuing to address climate change.
- Continuing to offer a fossil-fuel-free fund to McGill donors – the first such fund in a major Canadian university endowment.
- Improving McGill’s United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) score, the first such commitment for a major Canadian university endowment.
- Integrating an Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) scoring system and risk metrics into our fund manager monitoring processes.
- Continuing to report annually on our progress.
A full list of these commitments is available here.
“McGill is committed to fighting the climate crisis not only in its teaching and research, but in everything we do,” said Deep Saini, President and Vice-Chancellor. “These new commitments provide yet another opportunity for us to demonstrate our values, and work toward a greener Quebec and a greener world.”
These investment commitments align with McGill’s broader sustainability strategy, which includes becoming a fully carbon-neutral university by 2040 and achieving zero-waste campuses by 2035. McGill has been repeatedly recognized as a global sustainability leader – most recently placing 13th out of 1,397 institutions worldwide in the 2024 QS World University Sustainability Rankings.
The Carbon Underground 200 (CU200) is a globally recognized list of “the top 100 coal and the top 100 oil and gas publicly-traded reserve holders globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves.”
For more information, visit the McGill website or contact the media contact listed below.
About McGill University
Founded in 1821, McGill University is home to exceptional students, faculty, and staff from across Canada and around the world. It is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 12 faculties, 14 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students.
McGill’s commitment to sustainability reaches back several decades and spans scales from local to global. The sustainability declarations that we have signed affirm our role in helping to shape a future where people and the planet can flourish.