UU scientists to assist ABN Amro bank with sustainability

Actievoerders van Fossil Free UU zingend op weg naar het Bestuursgebouw, foto DUB

ABN Amro has accepted Utrecht University’s offer, to receive UU scientists’ help with the bank’s sustainability measures. As a result, UU will not leave the bank, as was requested by a petition signed by over 600 people at the UU last year. Student movement Fossil Free UU says the plans are too non-committal.

Utrecht University will not switch to a more sustainable bank, rector Bert van der Zwaan said as student movement Fossil Free UU showed up at the Executive Board’s doorstep. The group had brought large banners, asking the board to break its ties with UU’s bank, ABN Amro. The bank is known to invest in non-sustainable partners like oil companies. Fossil Free argues that doesn’t mesh well with a university that claims to find sustainability of great importance.

Last March, the Executive Board consulted with the bank about the ways the bank will become more sustainable and at what speed that will happen. The bank claimed to be working on a more sustainable policy. The university board wants to assist the bank in their initiatives, and offered use of UU’s scientific expertise. According to the rector, the bank gladly accepts the offer.

Rector Van der Zwaan explained that a meeting will be held between the scientists of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, the Sustainable Finance Lab, the Copernicus Institute and ABN Amro. The rector invited Fossil Free UU and the University Council to be present at the meeting as well. Coincidentally, the invitation to the meeting had been posted on May 10th – just a day before, so the offer came as a total surprise to the Fossil Free activists.

UU: Clean up your wallet
Fossil Free UU is happy with the response, which had been almost a year in the making. On Monday, June 27th, 2016, the group had handed over a petition to the Executive Board, signed by over 600 UU students and employees, requesting the university to break ties with its bank, ABN Amro. The petition was supported by the University Council. Early this year, Fossil Free and the University Council reiterated their request, asking when they could expect a reply. Once again, none came, although at least a round table discussion was organized by ABN Amro in January, which included activists, University Council members, and a handful of UU scientists.

To – finally – receive a reply to their request, Fossil Free UU visited the Executive Board on May 11th. Armed with a large banner with the words ‘UU: Clean up your wallet’, the activists wanted to once again ask the board to cut ties with ABN Amro.

They didn’t get into the Administration Building, but the rector joined the group outside, so they could at least let him hear their protest song. At that point, the rector explained the contents of a letter that the board had mailed just the day before. The board was unaware about the planned protest. The letter contains the Executive Board’s official answer: the UU will not leave ABN Amro bank.


Rector #UniUtrecht neemt petitie in ontvangst om banden met ABNAmro te breken pic.twitter.com/3V3hSjnreI

— DUB (@dubnieuws) May 11, 2017

The activist group stated they will discuss the board’s answer with the people who signed last year’s petition, and will issue an official statement afterward. In a preliminary response, Fossil Free stated they’re afraid that the bank’s meetings with scientists are too non-committal and will not lead to any changes in the bank’s policy in the near future.