Intentionally Designed Endowments in 2017

As we reflect on 2017, we are again overcome with a profound sense of hope and gratitude; gratitude for all of the support and engagement from participants in the Intentional Endowments Network, and hope for accelerating progress toward the tipping point for a sustainable future.

When we talk about hope, we often quote author and Oberlin professor, David Orr who is fond of pointing out that “hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Recently our newest team member at Crane, Kristian Nammack introduced us to a similar observation on hope from author Rebecca Solnit: “Hope is not a lottery ticket you sit on the sofa and clutch. Hope is an axe you use to break down doors in an emergency.”

We are indeed in an emergency. Interconnected issues of climate change, the wealth gap, systemic racial and gender discrimination, geopolitical tensions, and resource scarcity represent unprecedented challenges for a global society of 7.6 billion.

On climate change, we’ve seen the harsh impacts here in the US this year with the hurricanes and the wildfires destroying property, value, and lives. Around the world, droughts, floods, and extreme weather events have exacerbated long-standing
challenges and devastated vulnerable populations.

As we look out 40 or 50 years into the future, and imagine the type of world we want for ourselves, for our students, our children and grandchildren, there are certain elements on which we can all agree -- healthy air, water, and soil, a safe and livable climate, opportunity for all people to meet their fundamental needs and lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. If we imagine ourselves in that successful future, looking back to the dawn of 2018, and ask ourselves what we got right, we believe the leadership of higher education, investors and the finance community will be a central component. 

2017 brought great signs of hope in our work together. Colleges, universities, and investment firms joined cities, states, business and others to send a clear signal to the world that “We Are Still In” the Paris Agreement, despite the Trump administration’s announced intent to withdraw. Major climate change resolutions passed at big oil and gas companies as large investment firms began to vote against management in earnest. The World Bank and huge investors like AXA and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund announced they would continue to scale back fossil fuel investments.

Members of the Intentional Endowments Network have made great strides in shifting their capital to align with the long-term success and stability of society. Pitzer College built on its divestment commitment to help seed an ESG-focused ETF through BlackRock. Hampshire College produced a case study detailing its sustainable investing journey as a resource for others to reference on their own journeys. We collaborated with Cambridge Associates and Lewis & Clark College to develop a publication on Considerations for ESG Policy Development that includes language for aligning investments with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Center for Responsible Business at UC Berkeley’s Hass School of Business hosted a dynamic conversation among endowments, investment industry experts, students, and others on the opportunities for low-carbon and climate solution investing. Through IEN working groups, Network participants advanced conversations and developed new resources to support action on investing in clean energy, student-managed investment funds, shareholder engagement, fiduciary duty and policy development, and peer-networking among trustees. And the number of contributing members of the Network grew dramatically to a total of 130 endowments, foundations, managers, advisors, non-profits, and individuals. 

2018 will be a banner year for our work together through IEN. We are growing the team to better support the Network in tackling more of the activities that will advance education on sustainability and shift capital to solutions. We will expand our reach to more endowments and other organizations in the ecosystem – and continue to accelerate this progress. We look forward to working with all of you in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society in the new year.


Thank you,

Georges Dyer and Tony Cortese
Co-founders and Principals
Intentional Endowments Network