UEA’s People & Planet are calling on the university to divest Barclays of their ‘strategic relationship’, following the findings that UEA have £30 million worth of funds invested in the bank.
According to Union policy, Barclays Bank was identified in the original Ethical Banking Policy, passed at Union Council on 14 March 2013, as an unethical bank, particularly around its investment into fossil fuels.
At present Barclays are the only UK based bank ‘still choosing to fund the three oil pipelines planned from Canada’s Alberta province to Canada’s Pacific coast’, a project that produces some of the world’s highest pollutant tar sands.
Pipelines like this are responsible for threatening indigenous communities, accelerating climate change, and putting water supplies and endangered species like the Southern Resident Orcas at a huge risk.
The bank’s annual shareholder meeting was stormed by protesters back in May, and following this they were “considering its investment and was working on a review of its approach to investments in oil and pipelines, with the aim of coming up with a new set of rules.” The investment is seen by many to be contradictory to prior commitments from the bank to follow a ‘sustainability strategy’.
UEA relationship with the bank is believed to be in conflict with an agreement made in 2011 due to Union Council proposals that the university should not maintain investment relationships that have implications on ethical and environmental issues. Speaking to Concrete, UEA People & Planet president Lewis Martin stated they “plan to take on a range of direct action throughout the year as well as attempting to open dialogue with the university” about the issue. He expressed that he believes the status of UEA’s current investment relationship is deceptive, considering that “sold the idea of the ‘green campus and university’.”
“The objectives of the workshop are the teach people about the campaign, the methods we can use as well as how to achieve the goal, as well as the inspire freshers and other students to take up campaigning on this issue as well as joining a host of other campaign groups across the student union and wider Norwich city.”
The University told Concrete it does not recognise the £3o million figure quoted as a balance on their account with Barclays.
A spokesperson added: “The sums of money held on account vary on a daily basis and are managed to ensure there are sufficient funds available to meet our working capital requirements.”
Nonetheless, UEASU’s Campaigns and Democracy Officer Sophie Atherton said That UEA’s prioritisation of a strategic relationship with Barclays is a “shame”.
Sophie believes that “UEA can pioneer change on an institutional level with regards to socially responsible and environmentally conscious finance”.