A West Coast school's plan to stop investing in coal could cause a ripple effect among institutions of higher-education. An official at one Kentucky university says such an approach would be unlikely in the Commonwealth, for more than one reason.
Stanford University announced last week that it will divest its almost 19 billion dollar endowment of all coal mining interests. The University of Kentucky's Treasurer says it's not the
first time a school has stopped investing in fuels that are seen as harmful to the environment. But Susan Krauss says she found it notable that Stanford singled out coal. "You know I think there's been over the last five years increasing pressure for universities and university related foundation endowments to divest of fossil fuel investments as a way of being more socially responsible as it relates to the environment," said Krauss.
Krauss admits such a decision at UK would be a tough sell, based on the historical and economic significance of coal in Kentucky. She says, "There's a lot of research that shows when you start to exclude certain companies and it's called socially responsible investing or SRI, that can limit the universe that managers have to make their investment decisions and can cause a dampening of return.".
Krauss says she was contacted about two years ago by an alumnus asking for UK to divest of fossil fuels. "Our objective is really a total return and at this time we're not doing any SRI screens," explained Krauss She says that's the only request of its type she has received.
According to Krauss, UK's investment strategy is aimed at creating at least a seven and a half percent return. Some thirty investment managers work with UK's one point two billion dollars.