Mr. Strople, Secretary General of McGill University writes:
Below is an excerpt from the Board of Governors meeting of May 22, 2007 (resolution and notes) approving divestment from Tobacco.
The CAMSR report was dealt with in the open session portion of the meeting. The CAMSR report itself consists mainly of the motion approved by the Board.
At the date of the deliberations (2007), we would not have posted this report to the website. We will look at doing so in future.
15. COMMITTEE TO ADVISE ON MATTERS OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CAMSR)
Governor Emerita Brenda Norris, member of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility, presented a Memorandum concerning tobacco related investments. (This document attached to the permanent minutes as GD06-46).
She noted that CAMSR is a separate body from the Investment Committee, although two of its members – currently herself and Committee Chair Ian Soutar – are drawn from the latter committee. In her preamble, she noted that the CAMSR resolution would have McGill take action that has already been pursued by several North American universities, including the University of Toronto. She also pointed out that tobacco stocks represent only approximately
0.5% of the University’s investment portfolio and that the financial impact of divestment would likely be minimal.
She read out the following resolution, moved by Governor Flanders and seconded by Governor Peeters:
Whereas CAMSR has received a properly constituted petition from the Post Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) requesting that CAMSR recommend to the Board of Governors of McGill University that it initiate the divestment of tobacco stocks from the University’s endowment fund;
Whereas, following a review of all the materials submitted to it by the Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), CAMSR is of the opinion that PGSS has established to CAMSR’s satisfaction that action is warranted on the part of the Board of Governors given the indisputable social injury caused by tobacco as a result of:
tobacco’s contribution to numerous adverse health conditions, both in smokers and in
those exposed to second-hand smoke;
the fact that there exists no safe use of tobacco and that it is a strongly addictive product; the economic burden resulting from health care costs and loss of productivity due to tobacco;
the clear marketing of tobacco products towards youth, and particularly those of university age or even younger;
the public health risk of fires caused by smoking;
Whereas, CAMSR has developed a definition of the holdings that would be affected by a tobacco divestment decision;
On motion duly proposed and seconded, it was resolved that the Board of Governors approve the initiation of the following actions:
1. That the Investment Committee instruct investment managers of publicly traded segregated accounts charged with responsibility for the University endowment to dispose, in an orderly fashion, of the University holding in any corporation that derives more than 10% of its revenues from the manufacture and production of tobacco products. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco. Corporations deriving revenue from activities related to the manufacture and production of tobacco products such as the manufacture of filters, rolling papers and packaging materials are exempt from this policy;
2. That the Investment Committee request investment managers of publicly traded segregated accounts charged with responsibility for the university endowment to refrain from investing in any corporation that derives more than 10% of its revenues from the manufacture and production of tobacco products.
In discussion, Governors stressed two considerations not to be overlooked should the Board approve the resolution. First, it was agreed that the primary goal in managing the endowment is to obtain optimal returns while ensuring an acceptable level of risk. The case of tobacco is exceptional, if not unique, in that there is no known safe use of tobacco products. Further to that point, Governors noted that awareness of the hazards of tobacco use has grown considerably as a result of scientific findings of recent years. Governors agreed that this motion was considered an exception.
Second, it was agreed that the University in no way wishes to denounce its generous benefactors with ties to the tobacco industry, including Sir William Macdonald, whose legacy lives in Macdonald Campus, which is a source of great pride to McGill.
The vote was called and the motion was carried, with two opposed and two abstentions.