In the letter, the action group also states ‘that an accelerated transition to a sustainable society is necessary and to this end, knowledge institutions will have to adopt a leadership role. Universities and universities of applied sciences must take a critical look at their banks and insurers, and hold them accountable for their investment choices.’
Anne Urai (assistant professor at Leiden University) signed the letter and argues that: “Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences are making great efforts to improve the sustainability of their own operations, conducting research on climate change and educating students with an eye to the future. And yet, they’re customers of banks and insurers who are still investing in extraction and expansion of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas when it’s clear that we need to get rid of these products as soon as possible. This calls for action.”
Financing the fossil sector
Currently, the majority of higher education institutions bank with major banks such as ING, Rabobank and Deutsche Bank, which have a questionable reputation when it comes to sustainability. In 2021, ING provided $10.7 billion in financing to the fossil sector (oil, coal and gas), Rabobank provided $2.1 billion and Deutsche Bank $9.1 billion. TU/e also banks with a major bank (Rabobank).
In addition to the call for more sustainable banking, the letter also contains concrete recommendations for universities and universities of applied sciences. For example, institutions can use the Fair Bank Guide to enter sustainable selection criteria in order to help them choose a new bank or insurer. ‘Furthermore, the financial operations can already be partially moved to a sustainable bank (unfortunately, most sustainable banks are still too small to handle the financial operations in their entirety). Additionally, the advice was given to take collective action against the banking sector, rather than individual action. In 2021, such a joint approach led to the pension fund ABP’s decision to withdraw from fossil investments.’
The full letter can be found online.