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UM wants ABP to advance sustainability

MAASTRICHT. Sever the ties with sectors that “are related to fossil fuels” as quickly as possible. That is Maastricht University’s message to pension fund ABP in a letter that is now on the UM website. The university also wants to hear from the fund how it will ensure that investments become more sustainable in the future.

More than a year ago, Sustainable UM2030 organised a debate in the auditorium on the Minderbroedersberg on making the pension fund more sustainable. Both Corien Wortmann-Kool, ABP’s president of the board, and Martin Paul, president of Maastricht University, were present.

“We share the same goal, but we differ on how to achieve it,” said Corien Wortmann-Kool repeatedly at the time. ABP feels that its power lies in engagement: they can voice opinions during shareholders’ meetings and argue in favour of more sustainable policies, for example; they also want to help businesses to promote more sustainable behaviour. “We expect change from those businesses that do not meet the requirements,” said Wortmann-Kool. "They will have to show progress, otherwise they can no longer be part of our portfolio."

The UM is now holding the pension fund to that. “We would like to be able to inform our community about the steps that you have been able to take regarding this issue, and in particular what the effects have ben. This is mainly because of the fact that challenging the oil sector has not appeared to be very effective,” the Executive Board writes in the letter. 

During the debate in February 2020, Martin Paul already stated that he wanted to withdraw from investments in fossil fuels. “In a wise way, but as quickly as possible. But that is my personal opinion, as an employer I am also responsible for 4,500 pensions. I want those to be safe.”

The UM is now taking a clearer stance. From the letter: “What if it is not successful? Are you prepared to then discontinue investing in funds that have any kind of connection with fossil fuels, which – as is indicated above – we believe to be the most desirable step?”

The UM is not the only university to be dissatisfied with ABP. Last week, professors and employees at Wageningen University asked their board in an open letter in de Volkskrant to demand from ABP that they stop investing in large meat companies in Brazil. These companies are involved in the deforestation of the Amazon.

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