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Northland College Becomes 747th Institution to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Irma Omerhodzic

The Northland College Board of Trustees voted Friday to fully divest Northland College's endowment funds from fossil fuels in the next five years.

Approximately 2.9 percent of the college's $28 million endowment—about $823,000—is currently invested in fossil fuels, according to the Carbon Underground 200, an annually updated global listing of the top 100 public coal, and the top 100 natural gas and oil companies. These investments will be replaced with more socially responsible investments with no new endowment funds invested in fossil fuel companies.


"To truly embrace our environmental mission, it is incumbent upon us to mindfully remove fossil fuel companies from our endowment portfolio," said trustee Mike Fiorio, a Northland College alumnus, a 32-year veteran of the financial services industry and a partner of Fiorio Wealth Advisors. "I'm proud to say that the Northland College Board of Trustees has embraced this initiative."

Based on data from the last 25 years looking at portfolios that incorporate fossil fuels and those that don't, Fiorio, who sits on the college's investment committee, concluded that there would be little-to-no long-term impact on returns.

According to 350.org, an international organization tracking and advocating for divestment, 746 institutions—including churches, cities, corporations, individuals and higher education institutions—representing more than $5.2 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. Northland College is now the 747th.

The student campaign for divestment at Northland College began in 2012 and was revived in 2014, according to Emily Donaldson, a 2017 graduate, who spoke before the board of trustees. Donaldson is a research assistant at the Northland College Center for Rural Communities and as a student directed the Environmental Council, the student organization that pushed for the change.

"This is one small step toward a more sustainable future that combats climate change and those culpable in perpetuating it—and one that is attainable and fitting for us as an environmental liberal arts college," said Donaldson. "However, as we join other institutions in this global movement of environmental and social justice, we will step into larger strides, until we're leaping toward carbon neutrality."

Northland College is one of 361 environmentally responsible colleges according to The Princeton Review and a member of EcoLeague, a consortium of six colleges and universities that share a mission based on environmental responsibility. Northland College will be joining three of these institutions—Green Mountain, College of the Atlantic and Prescott College—in divestment from fossil fuels.

"This is campus activism at its best," said Northland College President Michael A. Miller. "Educational institutions have a unique responsibility to divest from fossil fuels and help usher in the transition to a renewable energy economy that works for all, especially the young people for whom they exist."

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