This year amongst the hustle and bustle of SummerFest festivities, there will be one set of stalls that won’t be making an appearance.

Late last year the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Students’ Council passed a motion ensuring SummerFest (UMSU’s orientation festival) would not be sponsored by or feature any banks that fund fossil fuel companies now or in the future.

In the past, the Union’s orientation week festivities have included paid promotions by the Commonwealth Bank. However, after increasing support for divestment from fossil fuels within the University, we could no longer endorse their presence at our orientation festivals.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has invested $20,590 million in fossil fuel projects since 2008, including $774 million in coal mines. Commbank is the number one lender to coal ports in Australia, lending $2,810 million in the 9 year period, and has overtaken ANZ as the single biggest lender to fossil fuel projects in the Great Barrier Reef since 2008.

UMSU believes that taking away the social licence of our banks to fund destructive fossil fuel projects is an important step in stopping these projects from getting up off the ground.

Acts like refusing funding from institutions that fund fossil fuel projects can contribute to the global campaign to delegitimise the business models of companies that continue to use both public and investors’ money to search for more coal, oil and gas that cannot safely be burned if we wish to have safe and liveable climate future.

If the world is to meet its agreed goal of keeping global warming to less than 2ºC, 80% of current fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned. Any serious action to meet the targets agreed upon at Paris COP21 will mean that fossil fuel companies face major write downs because they end up owning coal, oil and gas reserves that are effectively worthless. Banks supporting fossil fuel companies to develop bigger reserves are just inflating this bubble even further.

We believe that it is imperative that the Commonwealth Bank stop loaning money for fossil fuel projects. Until they do so UMSU will not be complicit in helping CommBank promote their business to students.

What can I do to help?

The UMSU Environment department will be leading an ethical sponsorship working group in Semester 1 to work on sustainable arrangements for UMSU’s promotional deals. If you would like to get involved, please email

All of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks have made significant contributions to the fossil fuel industry. Since 2008, $135 billion has been loaned to fossil fuel companies who have shown complete disregard for the environmental impact of their business practices. For more information on how to divest and put your bank on notice, click here.


Yan Zhuang
UMSU President