George Washington University on Monday became the latest U.S. school to announce it will fully divest its endowment from fossil fuel holdings.
The board of trustees pledged to achieve full divestment by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2030, in addition to taking steps like phasing out single-use plastics.
"Our students and the broader GW community have been very passionate about sustainability and climate change and have played an important role in shaping our commitment to meaningful action," GW President Thomas LeBlanc said in a statement. "In our investments and our operations, we will vigilantly focus on renewable and sustainable practices and industries, keeping the university environmentally and economically sustainable for years to come.”
The university joins other schools that have announced similar actions after student-led campaigns. The University of California school system has committed to full divestment, while Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania have partially divested.
At GW, students involved in the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization demanding action on climate change, ratcheted up the pressure on the board and administrators this year. Activists held a week of protests in February and a student referendum in April, in which 85 percent of students voted to demand divestment, according to the GW Hatchet, the school's student newspaper.
The February protests led to the creation of a task force that developed the recommendations the board of trustees voted to adopt. The board also said it will immediately stop any new investments in companies that derive the majority of their funds from fossil fuels.
The board has reduced about 89 percent of its fossil fuel investments over the last five years, according to the GW Hatchet. The school's fossil fuel holdings now amount to about $53 million.
“We commend GW for taking this action, but we want to make clear that this would not have happened without years of student organizing,” Sunrise GW leaders said in a statement. “For too long, the Board of Trustees has ignored and dismissed student voices. We hope that the Board continues to act on issues brought forth by students.”