Regarding Sustainability at Georgetown

June 4, 2015

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

Over the course of the last two years, the student group Georgetown University Fossil Free (GUFF), the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR), and other members of our community have made important contributions to the conversation on sustainability by inviting us to think deeply about the ways that our University and its investments can respond to the challenges of climate change. In recent months, our Board of Directors convened a working group to evaluate this issue that was brought to their attention by our students and the work of CISR. The working group looked directly at the question of fossil fuel divestment.

I write today to share a resolution passed by our Board of Directors, which establishes that Georgetown University will not make or continue any direct investments of endowment funds in companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy production. In addition, the University will encourage its external investment managers to avoid investments in these companies. The resolution also holds that Georgetown will monitor issues related to socially responsible investments on a regularized basis, and will continue to advance our sustainability efforts on campus. I invite you to read the Board resolution.

This latest effort builds upon a foundation of deep work that our University has been engaged in over the course of many years.  Almost a decade ago, Georgetown made a commitment to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% before 2020—a commitment that we met and exceeded last year. We have been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the second largest green power user of all campuses in the country, and were named, in 2013, an EPA Green Power Partner of the Year. We continue to pursue innovative research, teaching, and scholarship through efforts such as the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI), our multi-campus effort established in 2012 to advance the interdisciplinary study of the environment. The GEI is focused on harnessing the resources of our academic community to make the most positive contribution to science and policy on the environment.  You may read more about our sustainability efforts here.

This most recent action by our Board enables us to ever more deeply fulfill our responsibility to be caring stewards of the environment. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we are called to powerfully engage the world, human culture, and the environment—bringing to bear the intellectual and spiritual resources upon which our community is built.

The work of understanding and responding to the demands of climate change is urgent and complex. It requires our most serious attention. As a university community, we can respond best to this evolving and ongoing challenge when we embrace the tensions embedded in this work—and the variety of perspectives that are present—as we seek an ever deeper understanding of how best to respond in ways that contribute to the common good.

I wish to thank all of the members of our community whose dedication to this issue, as well as their thoughtful and careful engagement, has strengthened this important dialogue.


John J. DeGioia