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Fossil fuel investments / divestment at Leeds

People & Planet made this Freedom of Information request to University of Leeds Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

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People & Planet

Dear University of Leeds,

This is a request for information through the Freedom of Information Act.

1. Has the University of Leeds made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies?

Full divestment means divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment means divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.

2. Has the University of Leeds discussed fossil fuel investment or divestment in any university meetings or committees since the 1st July 2019? If yes, please share the relevant meeting minutes in response. If answering this question would result in time/costs that go beyond the parameters outlined in the Freedom of Information Act please share a link to where the relevant committee meeting minutes can be found online.

If applicable, in response to any of the above information requested, please confirm that the University does not hold this information.

Please confirm receipt of this request and we look forward to hearing back from you within the next 20 working days.

Yours sincerely,
Laura Clayson

Freedom of Information, University of Leeds

Dear Laura

Freedom of Information request reference L/23/189

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The University of Leeds aims to respond to all FOI requests within 20-working days of receipt. If this timeframe changes, I will write to provide you with an update.

If you have any questions about your request, please contact us at [University of Leeds request email]

Regards

Freedom of Information Officer

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Freedom of Information, University of Leeds

Dear Laura

Freedom of Information request reference L/23/188

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The University of Leeds aims to respond to all FOI requests within 20-working days of receipt. If this timeframe changes, I will write to provide you with an update.

If you have any questions about your request, please contact us at [University of Leeds request email]

Regards

Freedom of Information Officer

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Freedom of Information, University of Leeds

1 Attachment

Dear Laura

Freedom of Information Response (Our Ref: L/23/189)

Thank you for your Freedom of Information ('FOI') request, reference L/23/189.

Your request read:

"1. Has the University of Leeds made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies?

Full divestment means divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment means divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.

2. Has the University of Leeds discussed fossil fuel investment or divestment in any university meetings or committees since the 1st July 2019? If yes, please share the relevant meeting minutes in response. If answering this question would result in time/costs that go beyond the parameters outlined in the Freedom of Information Act please share a link to where the relevant committee meeting minutes can be found online."

The University of Leeds holds some of this information.

1. Please see Appendix A, attached, for a full description of the University's investment approach in this regard.

2. The University may hold some of this information. However, we consider that to respond to your request would exceed the cost limit as set out in Section 12(1) of the FOI Act. Section 12(1) states that a public authority can refuse a request if complying with it would exceed the appropriate limit of £450. For the purposes of FOI, time spent on the permitted activities is calculated at the flat rate of £25 per person, per hour. The appropriate limit therefore represents the estimated cost of one person spending 18 hours to determine whether the information is held, and to locate, retrieve and extract the information.

In this case, we have no way of running a centralised search for this information. Instead, each relevant faculty, school and department across the University would be required to run a manual search of their records in order to determine if any information is held and then would need to extract this information from the documents holding the information (as it is unlikely that most meetings would focus entirely on this subject alone). Considering the size of the University and the wide scope of your request, this work would almost certainly exceed the limits as set out above.

Under our Section 16 duty to advise and assist applicants, we are required to provide applicants whose requests have been refused under section 12(1) with suggested ways in which their request could be refined in order to reduce the total amount of time required. In this case, if you were able to refine the timeframe you are interested in to a single academic year and target your request at a particular school or department (such as the Finance investment team), this will reduce the time required and may bring your request to within the appropriate limit. However, we cannot guarantee this would result in the release of any information.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions about this email, however, please do not hesitate to contact us on [University of Leeds request email]

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request, you can request an internal review. Requests for internal review should be made in writing using the following contact information:

Email: [University of Leeds request email]

Requests for internal review should be submitted within 40 working days of receiving the University's response to your request. Further information about how the University manages FOI requests and about our complaints procedure is available on our website (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/).

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the review/complaints procedure provided by the University. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Sincerely
Freedom of Information Officer
University of Leeds

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People & Planet

Dear University of Leeds,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of the University of Leeds' handling of my FOI request 'Fossil fuel investments / divestment at Leeds'.

I would like to please request an internal review on the decision not to disclose the university's own position in relation to fossil fuel divestment. I asked very specifically, "Has the University of Leeds made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies?" The disclosure instead of the university's fund manager's investment strategy does not answer my question and does not allow me to ascertain Leeds' internal investment approach to fossil fuel investments as an institution.

I would like to please request a clear answer on whether the University of Leeds has made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies. A reminder that full divestment means divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment means divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.

Other UK universities in the sector regularly and willingly disclose this information to us as part of our Fossil Free campaign.

Please let me know if there is anything more you need from me to support the internal review process.

Please may I remind you that guidance published by the Information Commissioner's Office states internal reviews should ideally take no longer than 20 working days.

Kind Regards,
Laura Clayson

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/f...

Freedom of Information, University of Leeds

Dear Laura

Internal Review Response (Our Ref: L/23/189)

Thank you for your internal review request dated 21st July 2023, regarding Freedom of Information (FOI) request reference L/23/189.

You originally wrote to the University of Leeds on the 25th May 2023. Your request read:

""1. Has the University of Leeds made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies?

Full divestment means divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment means divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.

2. Has the University of Leeds discussed fossil fuel investment or divestment in any university meetings or committees since the 1st July 2019? If yes, please share the relevant meeting minutes in response. If answering this question would result in time/costs that go beyond the parameters outlined in the Freedom of Information Act please share a link to where the relevant committee meeting minutes can be found online."

The University of Leeds responded on the 16th June 2023, providing a copy of the relevant investment strategy in response to your first question and citing the section 12 exemption in response to your second.

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"I would like to please request an internal review on the decision not to disclose the university's own position in relation to fossil fuel divestment. I asked very specifically, "Has the University of Leeds made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies?" The disclosure instead of the university's fund manager's investment strategy does not answer my question and does not allow me to ascertain Leeds' internal investment approach to fossil fuel investments as an institution.

I would like to please request a clear answer on whether the University of Leeds has made a full or partial commitment to remove investments in fossil fuel companies. A reminder that full divestment means divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment means divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.."

The Head of Information Governance has reviewed your internal review request and the University's original response. This email sets out the outcome of the review.

The Head of Information Governance noted that a response was provided to you 16 working days after your request was received and therefore within the appropriate 20 working day timeframe set out at Section 10(3) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Furthermore, they also noted the original request was considered by the appropriate senior staff members, including the University's Treasury Manager.

The Head of Information Governance also noted that your review request does not mention the refusal (citing exemption section 12) to release information as requested in question 2 of your request. Therefore, this internal review will focus entirely on the response you were provided to question 1 of your request.

After careful and precise consideration, including consultation with senior figures within the University Finance Directorate, it is the Head of Information Governance's conclusion that the original response should have included some further additional wording in order to more fully explain the University's approach in this regard. Therefore, the following information is being provided in order to better clarify the University's position:

Our policy on responsible investment (link below) is to invest in companies that are sustainable and that purposefully set out to solve the problems of people and the planet profitably, without benefiting from causing harm to the world. We avoid companies that are materially engaged in certain sectors, including thermal coal, the extraction of fossil fuel from tar sands, oil and gas extraction, production and refining.

https://secretariat.leeds.ac.uk/wp-conte...

We hope that this information is helpful and addresses your concerns. However, if you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the review/complaints procedure provided by the University. The Information Commissioner can be contacted using the following information:

Post: Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Email: [email address]

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on [University of Leeds request email].

Yours sincerely
Freedom of Information Officer
University of Leeds

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are People & Planet please sign in and let everyone know.