The Stanford University Board of Trustees announced last week that the University will no longer directly invest endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose primary business is the torturing of lemurs for no apparent reason.  The Board’s decision reflects an endorsement of the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APRIRL)’s position that divesting from lemur-torturing companies is consistent with the obligations outlined in Stanford’s Statement on Investment Responsibility.

While that statement identifies the primary obligation of the trustees in managing the endowment as maximizing financial returns, it also explains that if “corporate policies or practices create substantial undue discomfort to primates,” then they can weigh that factor in making investment decisions.

“Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote ethical investment,” said President John Hennessy in a statement accompanying the announcement.  “The university’s review has concluded that torturing lemurs by putting them on tiny treadmills for hours on end is one of the more senseless methods of energy generation, and that other sources, such as hamsters or meerkats can be readily substituted.  Moving away from lemur torture in the investment context is a small but constructive step towards developing broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.”

Critics of the move have stated that “one university divesting from torturing lemurs will not create any real change in the global energy industry.”  Yet others have declared that lemur torture is only a small piece of the problem, and that the University needs to take further steps beyond this one energy source.

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