Princeton to dissociate from 90 companies connected to fossil fuel industry

The board of trustees of Princeton University — following rules the school established in May — voted earlier this month to dissociate from 90 companies that it found were active in the thermal coal or tar sands segments of the fossil fuel industry.

Exxon Mobil appears to be the most notable of the companies on a list filled mostly with entities most people would not immediately recognize. (See the list of companies here.)

The decision was one of two recent moves the university has made in its attempt to do its part against climate change.

The Princeton University Investment Co. — in a step toward the board’s related commitment to achieving a net-zero endowment portfolio over time — said it will eliminate all holdings in publicly traded fossil fuel companies. PRINCO said it also will ensure that the endowment does not benefit from any future exposure to those companies.

The announcement of the dissociations is the first since the university announced an administrative process for doing so. (See the quantitative criteria the school uses here.) And, while that process also allows the school to disassociate from companies it has found to be engaged in climate disinformation campaigns, no companies met that criteria at this time.

The board determined that the bar for dissociation on the basis of disinformation is exceedingly high, especially in the absence of quantitative standards and in light of the university’s commitment to embracing the vigorous exchange of ideas.

That being said, board Chair Weezie Sams said she was appreciative for the guidance that was provided.

“We’re grateful to the Princeton faculty members who dedicated their time and expertise to addressing an important and challenging set of questions,” Sams said. “It is thanks to their work, and the engagement of many members of the university community, that we’re able to take these steps today.”

The board’s vote is the culmination of a community-initiated, two-year process that included input from stakeholders across the campus community. The university will also establish a new fund to support energy research at Princeton, in part to offset research funding no longer available because of dissociation.

Princeton President Chris Eisgruber reiterated the school’s desire to be a strong voice in sustainability and fighting climate change.

“Princeton will have the most significant impact on the climate crisis through the scholarship we generate and the people we educate,” he said. “The creation of this new fund is one of several ways that the university is helping to provide Princeton researchers with the resources they need to pursue this work.”

For more information, visit the school’s Fossil Fuel Dissociation website.