In April 2014, a group of 120 leaders from the investment, higher education, foundation, and non-profit communities gathered to explore the concept of the "Intentionally Designed Endowment." Georges Dyer and Tony Cortese worked with Second Nature* and Hampshire College to convene the gathering and designed it in collaboration with a planning committee of experts and practitioners.
We developed a Primer for participants that provides a general background on the interrelated concepts of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing, and sustainable investing. Click here additional resources from the gathering, including the summary report, videos, select presentations, and a Greenbiz.com article about the event.
The agenda design was based on participant feedback, which highlighted the following questions as highly relevant to conversations about endowment investing practices that are inline with an institution’s mission, and consider the full range of emerging material ESG factors:
- Why should we consider aligning investments with ESG goals? How does this fit with our mission as educational and philanthropic institutions? Our responsibilities as fiduciaries? Click here for resources related to fiduciary responsibility
- What are financial costs and benefits of such alignment? Can we get good ROI with such alignment? Click here for resources related to performance
- What is happening across higher education and foundations and how can we learn from others who have moved forward in this area? Click here for resources related to case studies & best practices
- What are the financial structural challenges in the market that may impede action, e.g., commingled investment funds or donor advised funds?
- How might we discover and assess the range of strategies and products available for aligning investments with ESG goals? Click here for resources related to existing strategies & products
- How might we effectively facilitate a constructive conversation and decision-making process across all our stakeholders? Click here for resources related to stakeholder engagement
- How might we keep informed about and support each other in addressing these issues in the future?
With continued engagement from Hampshire College, Second Nature, and participants of the April event, Second Nature’s founder, Tony Cortese, and Georges Dyer, established the Intentional Endowments Network, a non-profit, collaborative initiative. Ceres, a pioneer in mobilizing investor action and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), comprised of 100 leading investors collectively managing more than $13 trillion in assets, served as the fiscal sponsor to get the project off the ground. In 2015, the IEN principals formed The Crane Institute of Sustainability, Inc. to serve as the organizational home for the initiative. In 2016, the Crane Institute was granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
The IEN grew organically from this initial event, and held four similar forums in different regions of the U.S. over the 18 months that followed. The IEN also presented in several workshops, conference sessions, and webinars.
In June 2015, the IEN formed a Steering Committee of individuals representing a range of endowments, investment firms, and non-profits that had participated in IEN activities. The Steering Committee then formed a series of Working Groups focused on key topics relevant to the network, such as financial performance, fiduciary duty, and shareholder engagement.
* Second Nature (www.secondnature.org) is a trusted leader in the higher education effort on sustainability and the supporting organization of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (www.acupcc.org) – a network of nearly 700 institutions committed to pursuing climate neutrality and integrating sustainability considerations into all of their educational, research, and operational activities.