January 2016 Newsletter

The theme of this month's IEN newsletter is Shareholder Engagement. 

Our feature article previews the 2016 proxy-voting season and comes to us from Stuart Dalheim, Vice President of Shareholder Advocacy at Calvert Investments.

We also share examples of how several endowments are approaching shareholder engagement.

Your contributions to this conversation are welcome and needed. Please be in touch with any questions, news, or ideas for the IEN.

Warm regards, 

Tony Cortese & Georges Dyer

Updates from the Network 

Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum at Portland State University 

In November we held the Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum at Portland State University, which was a great success and another important step in developing this network. 120 people attended the event, 80 from endowments and non-profits and 40 from investment firms. 48 different colleges and universities were represented. For a complete list of participating institutions, the program agendaguest speakers, and sponsors, please visit the events page on our website. We welcomed a great group of representatives from colleges and universities and investment firms from California and the Pacific Northwest into the network and further explored many of the key focus areas - financial performance of sustainable investing strategies, fiduciary duty, facilitating constructive conversations on campus, shareholder engagement, climate risk, and more. Several ideas for new working groups emerged from the conversations, which we will be forming in the coming weeks. 

Introducing The Crane Institute of Sustainability 

For the past several months, we have been creating a new organization to serve as a long-term home for the IEN.  We are pleased to announce that the Crane Institute of Sustainability is now up and running. Crane has applied for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, and in the meantime Ceres will continue to serve as the fiscal sponsor for the network. We are grateful to Ceres in helping to launch IEN and for being our fiscal sponsor. 

Summary of 2016 Plans 

2016 holds the promise of being a banner year for the IEN and the sustainable investing field as a whole. We plan to hold another Forum in the fall, and to pilot a new model of more localized meetings with smaller groups of schools and industry experts throughout the year. We will also host more virtual meetings, leveraging new online collaboration tools to support learning and engagement. We will work with the Steering Committee and Working Groups to develop new resources and publications to support education and action around sustainable investing, and develop new projects for supporting shareholder engagement by endowments and exploring the role of endowment investing in implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. Keep an eye out for details on this year's events, which we will share once location and dates are confirmed. 

Founding Member Update

Over the past two months, we have been rolling out a membership program for IEN. Organizations that join before February 15, 2016 will be permanently recognized as Founding Members. For a list of the Founding Members to date, please click here. For more information about the benefits and how to join, click here.  Investment by network participants is critical to build on momentum we have created together and leverage other important sources of institutional funding. The network is not a professional association (designed around a central organization) or a coalition (with a centrally organized campaign). IEN’s focus is to facilitate connections among peers, to support learning and inform action. Its activities make it easier for administrators and trustees to see how they can successfully enhance their institutions’ approach to sustainable investment and address stakeholders’ concerns. If you or your organization has not already joined, please contact us to do so before February 15th, to be a part of this pioneering group. 

Assessment Project 

What impact has this network had? The IEN team, along with graduate student Gavin Whittle, are working to create a framework to answer that question and ensure the effectiveness and continuous improvement of the network to achieve its goals, to inspire and support network members, to satisfy funders, and to accelerate action. The project aims to assess both the health and strength of the network and the impact it has had in shifting investment practices to better support a healthy, just and sustainable society. We hope to hear from many of you in the course of this assessment. 

Upcoming Events

 

School Spotlight:  

Below is just a few examples of how endowments are approaching shareholder engagement (or have in the past): 

  • The University of California recently co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on ExxonMobil to disclose the resilience of its business model in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The other co-filers included the Church of England, the New York and Vermont state retirement funds, and the Brainern Foundation. 
  • Yale University's Dwight Hall SRI Fund filed a resolution calling on ExxonMobil to publicly report its undisclosed lobbying expenditures. 
  • Loyola University Chicago's Shareholder Advocacy Committee, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, has had initiatives on issues including human trafficking, child labor, and mountaintop removal coal mining, and advised the university on voting their proxies.
  • Bard College's Socially Responsible Investment Committee maintains proxy voting guidelines and makes voting recommendations to the Trustees, and in 2009 filed a resolution calling on McDonald's to address pesticide use, which was successfully withdrawn when the company agreed to do so. 
  • Swarthmore College's Committee on Investor Responsibility makes recommendations to the Board on voting proxies, informed by the school's voting guidelines. In the early 2000s the college filed resolutions with Lockheed Martin, Masco and Dover on corporate equal opportunity policies related to sexual orientation that led to policy changes (IRRC Institute report, p. 32). 

 

Feature Article 

2016 Proxy Voting Brings Opportunity to Accelerate Corporate Sustainability Progress

Stu.png By Stuart Dalheim 

As we turn the corner into 2016, our attention turns to the upcoming elections.  No, I am not referring to the elections for public office that already dominate the airwaves (though they are important too), but the opportunity investors have to participate in shareholder democracy by voting proxies during corporate annual general meetings. Springtime marks the height of the proxy season, which means investors can use their position as owners to vote on slates of corporate directors, make their voices heard about executive compensation packages, and cast ballots on a wide range of social and environmental shareholder proposals. Read more.

 

Featured Resources

  

In the news

A few select news articles we've posted over the past three months…



If you have an original piece you would like to submit for an upcoming newsletter, please email Peyton Siler Jones at peyton@intentionalendowments.org!

For more information about the Intentional Endowments Network and how you can support this work, please contact Georges Dyer at georges@intentionalendowments.org