The Australian National University (ANU) is embarking on a new process to ensure its investments are socially responsible.

Members of the ANU community have been campaigning for the university to end all investment in the coal, oil and gas industries.

The ANU's investment portfolio is valued at more than $1 billion and the university has released a new policy guiding what assets the portfolio should hold.

ANU chancellor Gareth Evans says the university is yet to identify what kind of investments will be ruled out.

"The university is committing itself to avoid future investments that involve substantial social injury," he said.

"At the same time, [we want to] advance or promote investments that actually contribute in a socially responsible way to the community.

"Of course against that, we have to take into account the responsibility of the university to get the maximum financial return from its investments."

Chancellor Evans says the ANU is inviting submissions on what investments should be ruled out.

"What we've got are standards for how we'll construct our investments in the future," he said.

"I think ANU is being a leader in this respect and we are being responsive to concerns out there among students and other parts of the community."

A student lobby group has welcomed the new guidelines, but says more detail is needed.

Fossil-Free ANU spokesman Tom Swann says the group will engage with the ANU in good faith, but has concerns.

"We're very pleased to see that the ANU now acknowledges it does have a responsibility to invest with environmental and social factors in mind," he said.

"We welcome the policy as a very small step in the right direction, but we're very concerned to see that it's extremely vague.

"We're not convinced that by itself it's going to do anything."

The ANU says a committee will monitor if investments comply with the new guidelines.