Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college, based in Vermont and known for its global reach and focus. In late January 2019, Middlebury announced an ambitious, whole-institution approach to combating climate change that includes sustainable, fossil fuel-free investing.
Middlebury’s new Energy2028 plan builds on a history of thinking holistically about sustainability. In 2007, then-President Ron Liebowitz signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and the campus achieved carbon neutrality within ten years - a story shared in this video. The college has won numerous awards for its integrated approach to sustainability, including campus operations and curriculum. The new integrated plan also includes ambitious targets for using the college endowment’s investment strategy to fight climate change.
As the team discussed with participants in a Next Level Conversation at our recent Higher Ed Climate Leadership Summit, the four pillars of the Energy2028 program help everyone on campus to see their role in climate action, by using 100 percent renewable energy, conserving energy on campus, expanding educational opportunities, and reducing fossil fuel investments in the endowment. For Middlebury, the path to leveraging its endowment to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuel use has three components:
- Beginning in mid-2019, Middlebury’s investment manager, Investure, will not directly invest any new dollars on Middlebury’s behalf in specialized private investment funds that focus on fossil fuels.
- Middlebury, in collaboration with Investure, will begin a phaseout of direct fossil fuel investments in the endowment that will reduce the value of those investments by 25 percent in 5 years and 50 percent in 8 years and, within 15 years, eliminate such investments entirely.
- Middlebury and Investure have established realistic and reasonable reduction targets to ensure the phaseout does not significantly impact the performance of the endowment.
Announcing the Energy2028 plan, Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton said, “After much study and discussion, and with the input, encouragement, and even passionate advocacy of many students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the board today has taken a bold step to shape this institution’s future. This plan is true to Middlebury’s culture and values. It is bold and aspirational while remaining realistic and highly practical. It acknowledges that we do not have all the solutions at our disposal at this moment to meet these goals, but it commits us to make every effort to do so. I could not be prouder or more inspired by our institution than I am today.”