STU Adds Fossil Fuel-Free Fund Options to Pension Plan

Dr. Janice Harvey, left and Dr. Matt Robinson, right, stand in front of George Martin Hall

St. Thomas University is adding three fossil fuel-free fund options to the university’s pension plan. Beginning in January 2023, faculty and staff will have the option of moving their pension investments into these funds.


Providing fossil-free fund options to pension plan members began with a resolution by the faculty union, FAUST, to pursue this goal. It was then taken on by the joint university-union Pension Advisory Committee, which worked with Canada Life over the past 18 months to make these options available to plan members.


St. Thomas University is the first Canadian plan sponsor with Canada Life to adopt these fossil fuel-free funds for its members.


Dr. Matt Robinson, of the Philosophy department, and member of the FAUST Environment Committee which took the lead for the union on developing the options, is a member of the Pension Advisory Committee.  


“Our goal was to exclude investments that have the worst effect on climate change,” he said.


“The faculty union voted to add fossil fuel-free options to the menu of available investments, specifically referencing the guidelines of a widely recognized standard for fossil fuel-free investments called the Carbon Underground 200. That is the criterion that was used in selecting these funds.”


The three new funds include an RBC global equities fund, which holds companies from North America, Europe and Asia, excluding companies that extract, process, or transport fossil fuels; a Canadian equities fund from Jarislowsky Fraser that also excludes fossil fuel companies; and a Jarislowsky Fraser bond fund which excludes fossil fuel companies and aims at significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the investment.


“This is fundamentally an ethical issue. Diverting our pension investments out of funds that support fossil fuel companies won’t avert climate chaos, but it will reduce our complicity in it,” said Dr. Janice Harvey, professor in the Environment and Society program, and member of the FAUST Environment Committee. “It also sends a powerful message to our students – that we care about the future they will inherit and are prepared to put our money where our mouth is.”


Since the initiative began with FAUST members, Harvey expects a strong uptake once the new funds are available.


Robinson agreed, noting this step forward for St. Thomas was achieved collectively.


“Investment is one area where each of us in the developed world can have an important impact on climate,” he said.