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ANU revises investment policy

The Australian National University will set up a socially responsible investment policy, two months after documents were released where it defended its investment guidelines as ethically sound.

The Vice-Chancellor has also agreed to meet with a representative of the students' environment collective, as the Fossil Free ANU group continues its push for the university to sell its coal, oil and coal seam gas holdings.

Fairfax Media understands at the last Council meeting in May, the Investment Advisory Committee suggested the setup of an expert group to write up the policy, but the ANU Council disagreed.

Fossil Free ANU spokesman Tom Swann said the group welcomed the creation of the formal policy and will meet with the investment committee, but argued for broader consultation on the policy.

"We're very pleased that they're implementing this policy, and pleased they're accepting our input - we hope they'll engage in good faith, we're not doing this as a combative thing, we're doing this as something that the community really cares about," Mr Swann said.

After lauding the ANU for its wide consultations on its response to federal government budget cuts announced in May, Fossil Free ANU said it is launching a website on Thursday for submitting comments to the Vice-Chancellor, with further opinion on university shareholding occurring through a petition and other submissions.

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A document provided to Mr Swann in early May through a freedom of information request said the university "regards the current guidelines that the Investment Advisory Committee operates under as leading to the best ethical and financial results for ANU".

The documents revealed the university sold more than 600,000 shares in coal seam gas company Metgasco following "concerns from various parties regarding perceived environmental impacts of Coal Seam Gas mining".

However, later documents outlined investments in Santos Ltd, a company that describes itself as a "coal seam gas industry leader", jumping from 90,000 shares as of October 31 to 190,000 by the end of December.

As of the end of December, the ANU held 2.5 million shares in Metgasco, with holdings in at least eight other commonly held metals and mining stocks.

In an email to a students' association environment collective representative on Wednesday, Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian young said the University Council has broad representation from the community.

"I note the Council has taken a very open approach to this particular issue, inviting you, as an interested member of our community to attend the last meeting," Professor Young said.

"The University has hundreds of policies, and to create a formal consultation process in the development of such policies would be a huge administrative overhead that would slow down the process and add significant cost."

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