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Unity Marks Four Years at Forefront of $5.2T Divestment

UNITY, ME – On the anniversary of its historic decision to become the first U.S. college to divest from fossil fuels, Unity College is redoubling its efforts to create a net zero campus and spread sustainability broadly throughout society.

The Unity College Board of Trustees made history when it voted unanimously to divest its portfolio from investments in the Top 200 fossil fuel companies in 2012.

As the first U.S. institution of higher learning to take that step, Unity College became the standard bearer for a national movement that now has exceeded $5.2 trillion in assets diverted from fossil fuel production, according to a new report by Arabella Advisors.

The sum controlled by individuals and institutions committing to divest from fossil fuels has doubled over the past 15 months, Arabella says.

“Our leadership and our board made this courageous decision after looking at the data on climate change and conducting due diligence on fiduciary responsibility,” says Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury.

“It's not a statement. It's not symbolism. It's walking the talk when it comes to creating a sustainable path for society,” Khoury says. “We have a vision for a sustainable society that transcends our teaching methods and even our campus, and extends to ethical, systematic, comprehensive, scientifically-informed operational policies. The Unity College way is helping our students to learn from the process as we do the right thing.”

Media coverage of Unity College's divestment decision included The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone magazine, TIME magazine, Maine Things Considered, The New York Times, College Planning & Management magazine, Forbes and dozens more.

In 2008, Trustees asked Spinnaker Trust of Portland, ME, Unity's endowment manager, to prudently reduce the school's exposure to large energy companies over a five-year horizon.

Since divestment, Unity College has met targeted investment returns. Khoury says it takes no more effort to manage a portfolio for minimum exposure to fossil fuels than to manage for maximum return.

“We have continued to grow our portfolio in a way that allows us to continue to invest in student-facing improvements so we will be here to educate the next generation of environmental professionals,” Khoury says. “Divestment is agnostic when it comes to returns. Under current market conditions, our overall portfolio will generally not perform more poorly than the market average, while holding true to our ethical duty to divest.

“Some critics challenge that Unity's exposure was minimal because our endowment was small. But the stakes were actually much higher for Unity, as we could not afford to take a hit,” Khoury says. “Sometimes, the right thing to do requires risk.”

In addition to being known internationally for being the first U.S. college to divest from fossil fuels, Unity College was the first college with a residence hall built to Passive House standards, known as TerraHaus; and the first with a president's home, known as Unity House, to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. Unity College also is ranked No. 1 in the nation by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for sustainability in its finance and investment practices.

For a comprehensive list of all U.S. colleges and universities that have divested since Unity College in 2012: www.unity.edu.

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