Category: News

Divest Concordia’s last events of the Fall

The past two weeks have been busy for Divest Concordia – Let’s hear what happened!

There was an art build on Tuesday November 21st

At 11am, a small group sat on the floor of the H mezzanine and started making objects with the Divest Concordia colors. An art build is this spontaneous initiative to take up public space in order to be visible and surprise the public. Emily Carson Apstein, the external coordinator at Sustainable Concordia and active member of Divest Concordia, said they “painted some patches and holiday ornaments, using materials from the Resource Library and CUCCR.” During these creative two hours, they  “talked to students who were going by, played some music and hung out!” Emily explained.

… And a Divest 101 workshop on Wednesday, November 29th

The workshop was held in the Art Nook, on the 7th floor of the H building. During about an hour, folks got to learn about what divestment is, its history at Concordia and in the world, and how to make a change in our context. The presentation contained stunning statistics, videos, and an activity. Maya Provencal, coordinator at the Dish Project and avid supporter of the divestment movement, attended both events and said in retrospect: “I did not know very much about the relationship between the university and Divest Concordia and I thought that was very interesting.”

The events were successful on different levels

Both events brought together people from different horizons and sparked fruitful conversations. Emily thought the 101 workshop was a success as they “had students from around the world there, and talked about the global implications of divestment.” She added “there was an exchange student from Germany who told us his entire town divested!”

Regarding the art build, Maya, for whom it was the first time participating in this type of event, “thought it was really fun!” She “thought it was a really cool and unique way to get a message across, to push the campaign”.  On the other hand, Emily saw it engaging as they “had interesting conversations with people who wouldn’t normally talk about divestment” and added that this was the whole point because “those kind of events are about creating public awareness.”

Will we see them happen again next semester?

The events had a fairly small amount of interactions, which were however meaningful and highly engaging. Emily explained that “because people are busy, especially this time of the year, it’s hard to get a large turnout for an event, but if we have many smaller events then we can reach the same number of people and have more discussions.” The plan is therefore to have art builds and workshops monthly in the Winter semester. Maya (a participant) expressed, in agreement with this decision, her desire to see more events like these happening in order to keep on raising awareness and be more present in the Concordia landscape.

The events allowed her to get a better understanding of the movement and motivated her to be a part of it. In conclusion to our conversation she said: “I am definitely planning to attend all the events I can because they are informational and inspiring, and good. I think I am going to be more involved, I would love to facilitate the workshop eventually.”

What else will Divest do in the Winter?

Divest Concordia is preparing a whole lot of exciting projects! Generally Divest is “looking forward to increasing student engagement around campus.” Emily also revealed some news: “We’re hoping to make more connections with faculty as well next semester. I’ve talked to some specific professors that are interested in divestment.”

Let’s not spoil it all, we’ll tell you more on upcoming projects next time! Don’t hesitate to reach out to the external coordinator to get involved and to visit this page for information on the campaign.

Catching up with the Sustainable Investing Project

A few weeks ago, we finally posted information about this amazing ongoing project at the heart of SC’s Carbon campaign: SIP. Do you also wonder what these letters stand for, what the team members do and what they have achieved so far? We’ve got all these answers for you today!

 

What is SIP?
SIP is a project taken on by a small team (some of them in the picture above!) within Sustainable Concordia, to do research and create a Sustainable Investment Project (SIP) Guide. The project, currently bottom-lined by our Finance coordinator, Mauricio Buschinelli, was started in the summer.

 

Why is SIP needed in the community?
Here you can indeed wonder, what does investing have to do with me? Except if you’re keen on stock markets, it can be difficult to relate the dark finance sphere to your daily life.

Well, being one of the not-so-sure-what-finance-is-all-about group, I asked Mauricio how it all started and why it would be needed. The answer was to actually make it accessible and understandable to a wider crowd – to folks like me (and maybe like you too!).
He explained that in the context of the university being pressured to divest (to take its money out the fossil fuel or other unethical and unsustainable industries), research around sustainable investment and tools became increasingly necessary as “we realized that a lot of people who are involved and very passionate about it have been lacking the financial argument to take the conversation to the next level.”  In the divest discussions “people who have been involved were not sure what to bring up to counter this [pro-fossil fuel investment] argument,” when facing the administration or investors in committees for instance. “So we thought maybe we create a more widespread understanding of sustainable investing and how to divest, then everybody could argue against unsustainable investing and it becomes something that’s not just elitist,” he added.

 

What will it do?
Mauricio summarized that the project thus aims “to create that research, to give these arguments to talk at this level but also to demystify and diffuse this information in the community so that everyone feels comfortable engaging in these conversations.”

The coordinator emphasized that organizations’ (and individuals’) voices mattered as “in addition to the divestment argument, if we can foster a culture of sustainable investing in the social and solidarity economy sector, we can actually influence the financial sector as a whole by saying: ‘I’m only willing to invest if you publish timely and reliable information on your environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.’” Thus educating and implementing this culture will give the tools to demand change and start a shift in various sectors.

SIP aims to offer tools to talk about investing in our future – but is that it?
It is also about actually doing it!
The project, although started at the Z annex, will be a collaboration: it targets social and solidarity economy organizations, and requires their input in the project. Mauricio explained that “we are only one organization, and we can’t create a guide for all organizations,” as each has different needs and resources. However, all together, we can start mapping different investing possibilities!

 

How, though?
The project is so far broken down into five chapters. The first two are Finance 101 and what is sustainable investing: a workshop will be developed to introduce our community to the topics. The third chapter starts getting deeper in the process, as it tackles how an organization can have this discussion with its board of directors. After that, Mauricio explained, “the last two chapters are more about how you actually do it, once you’ve decided what you want to invest in and what you don’t want, this is what you do to actually invest.”

 

What are the challenges faced when researching sustainable investing?
The small team has gone far already, as they recently closed the first chapter and are now planning a launch event. Mauricio however made it clear that it had been a lot of work, as “sustainable investing is an emerging topic, there is no industry standard.” Besides, even at Concordia with it’s John Molson School of Business, it is difficult to find mentors or information in the field: Mauricio pointed out that “Concordia only has one professor that focuses on sustainable investing, and there are databases that focus on information relevant to sustainable investing but concordia doesn’t currently pay for them. So right now, if one wants to look at information regarding sustainable investing, they have to go to databases that have very limited information.” And if that was not complicated enough, sustainable investing has plenty of meanings which, according to the finance coordinator “depend on your own values, and the definition that you give it […] there is an array of opinions on what it is and what it is not. Currently, no one can claim to know exactly what sustainable investing is. And we think that’s important to understand!”

The project is moving fast and is very promising – stay tuned for our bi-weekly updates and learn more here!

 

 

  • Pauline Soumet, Communications and Design Coordinator

A Blog Post on How to Write a Blog Post!

Get your creative juices flowing!

Ankit Kumar, Online content creation intern

 

With the rise of social media, all hell has broken loose on the internet and there is practically a war out there to grab the reader’s attention. How do you make your blog post stand out amidst such intense competition? Just follow these 6 easy steps and very soon you will be blogging like a pro:

 

Step 1: Know your target audience

In today’s busy world, no one will glance through your blog post, unless the content is captivating and holds the reader’s interest. Before sitting down to write a blog post, you must answer the following questions –

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What are they interested in? Why will they read your blog?
  • What is that one topic that your target audience wants to know more about?

Say for example, if you are writing a blog post that will be posted on the Sustainable Concordia website, ponder upon which section of the Concordia community will be reading your blog and why your blog post will matter to them.

 

Step 2: Pick a Solid Topic

A lot of bloggers find it difficult to come up with their first topic for writing a blog post. You can take some cues from step 1 and proceed to come up with a strong topic.

The next obvious step is to do a thorough research and make sure you get yourself acquainted with all the perspectives. Also, reach out to relevant personalities in the community to get an “insider’s view” about your subject.

Then, start with a working title to begin with, which will eventually evolve to something very specific, as you write your blog post*.

 

Step 3: Write a captivating intro

You must have heard the age old saying – “Starting is the hardest part”. Well, that’s true for blogging as well. The intro should also be the most interesting part of your blog, so that you are able to capture the imagination of your audience.

You can do this with the help of what I call a “hook”. A hook basically is a way to hold the readers interest in your blog. You can do this by the following ways –

  • Make good use of your awesome sense of humor and tell a joke (which should be funny!)
  • Grip the reader’s attention with an interesting statistic or a shocking fact.

 

Step 4: Organize your content

Do not intimidate your reader by throwing an overwhelming amount of content at him. Give appropriate headings and sub-headings and break your article down into sub-sections so that it is easy to read and understand. Now, you can expand on your sub-headings and write a compelling thought provoking article.

 

Step 6: Your blog should be visually appealing

Another age old adage which is true for blogging – “A picture speaks a thousand words.” There is a reason Instagram is gaining quick popularity over other social media platforms. Pictures appeal to our senses more than plain text.

Here is a fascinating fact – In a recent research, it has been proven that content with visually appealing images receive 94% more views than content without stimulating images. So, make sure you don’t write a boring textual article, because no one will read it.

 

Step 7: Proofread and fix the formatting

All of us just HATE spelling and grammatical mistakes, don’t we? You don’t want to make an ugly impression on your reader. Make sure you proof-read and edit your blog post before posting it online.

 

Take the Plunge

Now that you have got your armor and shield together, take the plunge and transform your reader’s lives with amazing blog posts!

 

 

*Communication Briefings. May2017, Vol. 36 Issue 5, p4-4. 1/3p

What is Divest Concordia?

Looking at the coalition’s campaign and future plans

 

Have you heard of divestment? If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone!  We, along with the CSU (Concordia Student Union) and Divest Concordia, are trying to change that!
The Divest Coalition is a student-led movement that started in 2012 and demands the Concordia University Foundation to take its 11 million-dollar investment out of the fossil fuel industry. Emily Carson-Apstein, the external coordinator at Sustainable Concordia is responsible for gathering and educating folks on the divest matter – and updating us on what is new in the divest movement at Concordia. Let’s see what has been going on!

“Wait a second, what is divestment?”

‘’Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous’’ as it was defined on the Fossil Free movement website. Locally, Divest Concordia advocates for change in our university. The group “calls on Concordia University to remove its investments in fossil fuels, and adopt a responsible investment policy.”

Why does it matter?

Divestment has been a hot topic for the past few years, all around the world. Now, over 58,000 institutions have committed to divest, which is about 5.57 trillion dollars taken out of the fossil fuel industry.

The question is more important than ever, and more urgent than it has ever been: 2017 has been an impressive year regarding violent natural disasters and weather abnormalities, which are often argued to be influenced by human activity. And although we cannot argue that climate change generates crazy storms, we can definitely say that the fossil fuel industry has been one of the forces poluting our planet for decades.

“I am a student, what does this have to do with me?”

Discussions about divestment are happening in universities and communities in Canada and around the world. Millions of students want a fossil free future, and their tuition to serve their community: Emily explained that even though it is mostly talked about through an environmental lens, ‘’divestment has a precedent for being a really effective tool for creating social change.’’ At Sustainable Concordia we also put the emphasis on fossil fuel investments being a community issue: even though pipelines seem far from us Montrealers, they impact local low-income and indigenous communities when oil gets transported and irreversibly damage ecological systems, by pushing people away to be built or by having unsteady structures, for instances.

As Emily put it: divestment tackles “the fossil fuel industry at its root is [and is then] an effective way to address both the global impact of climate change and local impact of resource extraction.”

What has happened so far at Concordia?

The grassroot, volunteer and student-led movement Divest Concordia started in 2012. Emily explained that “in 2013, because of student pressure, Concordia University created a 5 million-dollar Socially Responsible Investment fund from its 170 million endowment fund.” The fund has performed quite well, but (unsurprisingly) very little information has been released about it.

How public is the university about its investments?

Well, you guessed it: not much has been shared about Concordia’s plans to divest in a few years!
All the figures we have about how much money [Concordia] has been investing in fossil fuels are from 2011, because that’s the last time the financial report has been open,” said Emily.

The university used 5 million dollars for a more sustainable goal – a great first step that can also be seen as a way to appease the student body instead of making meaningful change.

In 2015, JSIAC (the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee) was created to discuss plans regarding divestment, and their first meeting happened in February 2016. The Divest Coalition was invited to be part of the discussions along with the CSU and GSA, sitting across the table from 2 faculty members and 5 representatives of the Concordia University Foundation – students being involved in the process also sounded like a great step. Unfortunately, “JSIAC hasn’t met very often since then” Emily mentioned: the committee is quite static, difficult to get a hold of, and lacks transparency.

On the other hand, the CSU put Divest at the forefront of students’ concerns by making the movement its 2016 annual campaign, thus allocating lots of resources and people-power to the cause.

Now what? How do we change the world?!

The main challenge faced by the coalition has been the turnover: a lot of people get involved, and graduate after a few months or years. However, a lot of interest is still there, as we noticed when tabling during orientation. Emily even added that “the upside is that everyone is really passionate. I would even say there is a lot of passionate, invested people.”
So, the goal this year is to keep raising awareness among students through workshops, and to engage professors, in order to show the university the broader support in favor of divestment.
Simultaneously, as an educational organization, Sustainable Concordia will work to draw the connections between our community and fossil fuel industry’s actions, exposing the issue outside of its financial and institutional framework.
Let’s make concordia more sustainable together, let’s divest!

 

 

Interested in knowing more and making change? You can already start helping in this campaign by talking about it around you and getting more information on the Divest Concordia website. Stay tuned for our upcoming workshops to become an expert on divestment!