Harvard to divest from company with ties to Sudanese government

Harvard University announced Thursday that it will divest from China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, citing the company’s ties to the Sudanese government.

The decision comes more than a year after Harvard divested from PetroChina, making it the first school to divest from a corporation accused of facilitating the genocide in Darfur. But the university has at this point dumped its stock in only two such companies, lagging behind Yale and other peer institutions that have announced more extensive blacklists of companies in recent months.

In a press release, Harvard’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility said Sinopec’s expanding business in Sudan over the past year has raised “deep concerns.”

“The CCSR is persuaded, and the [Harvard] Corporation agrees, that the particular combination of circumstances bearing on Sinopec Corporation’s involvement in oil production activities in Sudan warrants the unusual step of divestment,” the statement said.

Sinopec is vastly increasing oil production in the region and has announced plans to partner with PetroChina in purchasing a new oil field there, the statement said.

Eric Bloom ’08, Yale’s co-coordinator for the group Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, said many activists have considered Harvard’s move inevitable, given weaknesses in its initial policy. Pressure has been mounting on the the university as other schools have taken more aggressive tacks, Bloom said.

“There have been people criticizing Harvard for the last year about the fact that it only divested from one kind of investment in one kind of company,” Bloom said. “It’s easier for Harvard to divest from Sinopec since more comprehensive precedents have been set by other universities.”

In February, Yale announced it will exclude seven companies tied to Sudan from its portfolio. Harvard, Brown and Stanford universities, as well as Amherst and Dartmouth colleges, have made similar pledges.

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