March 2017 Meeting of Sustainability Task Force

Notes for March 9, 2017

Task Force attendees:  Andrew Friedland (co-chair), Rosi Kerr (co-chair),
Lee Lynd, Flora Krivak Tetley, Alex Derenchuk, Anne Kapuscinksi, Merritt Patridge, Maanav Jalan, Meg Rauner, Abbe Bjorkland,

Invited Guests: Molly L. Smith, Laura Carpenter, Jenna Musco

Welcome: Andy Friedland started the meeting and welcomed the Task Force.

Process Discussion: Update from the Master Planning and Facilities Board Subcommittee Meeting (Rosi Kerr):

Just before the meeting, Rick Mills and Steve Moore decided to wait on the Sustainability Task Force formal presentation because they wanted to bring Dartmouth’s senior leadership up to speed. However, Frank Roberts presented on energy (specifically potential improvements to the energy system and transition to better fuels) and there was an opportunity to update the board members informally during this conversation.

Next steps (Rosi and Andy): Rosi and Andy have scheduled meetings with senior leaders (Carolyn Dever, Rick Mills, Phil Hanlon) to bring them up to speed and to hear from them to make sure we’re all aligned.

Process (Rosi): Earth Day announcement of Sustainability Task Force recommendations is planned.

What Would Success Look Like (discussion of task force):
If Phil adopted a set of science-based goals recommended by this group.

We have a clear message that should guide us: Our recommendations must take into account fiscal realities. If Dartmouth isn’t succeeding at our core mission of education and research, sustainability is moot. 

Action: Better incorporate the fiscal realities into recommendations.

Action: Focus on a set of goals with specificity in areas we know a lot about (energy) and that hold us accountable to something real. At the same time develop recommendations for increased assessment and aspiration in areas we don’t know as much about. Retool our thinking in this way.

One member suggested choosing two to five most powerful goals and then propose a framework to develop goals for the other areas.

Rosi Kerr: This has been our approach outside energy and waste - -highlight themes - -we need more data, we need a group to think deeper and more holistically about this,

A member reminded the group that an important element is statement of aspiration – crisp statement of aspiration, we develop recommendations pursuant to aspiration, clear statement is important, board can hold themselves accountable to aspirations they endorse

Discussion of Divestment Proposal from Sub Group (Manaav Jalan and Anne Kapuscinski):
Group Discussion of Proposal to Include Divestment in the Report:
Inclusion is an opportunity to tackle more systemic, institutional ways we are unsustainable. Divestment would allow us to lead the Ivy League. The proposal by the sub group incorporated information from two reports commissioned by the college – in each scenario all or partial divestment would be advantageous to Dartmouth.

The language the sub group crafted to submit to the Task Force supports coming up with a plan for divestment - -stepwise process to see how it could work at Dartmouth – which companies would we divest from, how much and then follow by review process for plan to see if possible – not a yes and no recommendation. Sub group proposes including a commitment to a process.

Key rational –Issues that are complex need to be addressed at various nested scales of society, great that we are thinking about what we can do on our campus, but it is not enough to be a leader in changing accepted norms.

Divestment is a method. Group likes the idea of setting principles to which we hold ourselves accountable but without being prescriptive of method. E.g. Dartmouth has a role in shifting norms away from harm and towards more beneficial behaviors –

Some members spoke about divestment as alienating to companies and individuals who we need to bring around to sustainability as a cause. Also, what about the fossil fuel companies who are also the biggest investors in renewables.
One member spoke about the differences between South African divestment and fossil fuel divestment. In the South Africa case, apartheid was something society could stop doing immediately. Fossil fuel is not such a case.

One member spoke about a course that enables Dartmouth to look at the issues of Dartmouth’s influence beyond direct influence and develop a plan for creating the most positive benefit. Parse out greenwashing and the details of issues.

One member reminded the group that our recommendations are about goals not tactics. Divestment is a tactic. But there are others. What if all ivies in concert developed filter for investments that would be powerful? Would that be a better tactic. In other words, let’s stay focused on the goal which is that Dartmouth should use its influence to help the world move to a low carbon future. The process of going through the discussion would be healthy for institution – hard to piggy back on experiences of other institutions, engagement could be part of the answer.
One member brought up that divestment could be considered outside our charge and might undermine the other goals.  Also, it is not so black and white that divestment is good for society – tradeoffs we experience related to divestment are different than what other people and other countries are going to experience.

One member pointed out that the question is not are there beneficial discussions Dartmouth could have on divestment – we could all say there are. Question is for this Task Force and our product what is an appropriate level of inclusion?

One member suggested framing a principal around this topic of leveraging Dartmouth’s influence. Another member suggested placing this principal in the Other Great Ideas category.

Another member suggested also including a principal that connects operations with teaching and learning in this section of the report.  Include language that suggests exploring how Dartmouth can engage our influence to speed transition to better, low carbon society – a goal could be the assessment of investment and divestment as effective (or ineffective) strategies.

Another member pointed out that aspirational statements are important, if we aspire to be a leader, we don’t just consider the physical plant and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to have this included in recommendations.  Part of being a leader is engaging passion where it exists and there is passion around this issue – there is a price to ignoring passion– aspiration should be broader than just charge and it is appropriate to respond to that.

Action: Rosi Kerr will draft a lead in, principal and set of goals in Other Great Ideas section and share well in advance of next meeting.

Discussion of the Draft Report as a Whole: Questions brought up by members and noted by chairs: How should we include references? Put charge as appendix? Or in front? Can we streamline the text in the intro sections and reduce it? 

Overview of areas that the task Force has not seen yet (Rosi Kerr): Sections on governance, accountability, and reporting. Most of assessment and reporting identified in the recommendations will be done by Sustainability Office. Suggested governance structure is:

Accountability and reporting:

Rosi reminded members that we have 1 more meeting and a lot to cover.

Task: Each Task Force member needs to review current draft and make 5 substantive comments, with proposed change included.

Current draft will be sent out Monday. “Other Ideas” section can be commented on more vigorously.

Meeting concluded.

Follow up Tasks: