Reflecting on 2016 and Looking Ahead - Update on the Intentional Endowments Network

Dear IEN members and friends,

Thank you for being a part of the Intentional Endowments Network. As we move toward implementing our 2017 priorities – of growing the network and advancing intentionally designed endowments – we’d like to take a moment and provide you with an update on an active and productive 2016.

The threats of climate change, toxins, extreme wealth inequality, oppression, human rights violations, water scarcity, breakdown in trust, loss of topsoil, failed states, political instability, and other sustainability challenges represent risks to investments in all sectors. Understanding the short- and long-term risks and opportunities of these trends is essential for prudent endowment management. Joining the conversation on these topics also serves as a tremendous leadership opportunity for endowed institutions.

The potential for a bright future is very much alive. Sustainability leadership from higher education foundations, corporations, social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and cities is inspiring and opening up new possibilities.

Perhaps most hopeful is the continued growth in investment capital aligning for positive social and environmental impact. Data from US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment shows assets in some form of Sustainable, Responsible, or Impact (SRI) investment strategy grew another 33% from 2014 to 2016 to account for 22% of all US institutionally invested funds. This is a continuation of a strong, accelerating trajectory since they started their survey in 1995.

Growing interest in SRI/ESG investing at endowments is widespread – it seems there is activity and conversations at just about every institution – and we expect to see interest and conversations translate to action more and more over the next two years.

With this background, we are pleased to share below the highlights of our work together in 2016, supporting alignment of endowment portfolios with the institutional mission, values, and sustainability goals:  

Membership Expansion and Growth

  • Building on our 77 Founding Members and Steering Committee, we launched a membership program that has grown to 110 in its first year.

  • Membership includes institutions of higher education, foundations, financial services companies, investment managers and consultants, and others interested in supporting our work. Many of the best minds in these fields have joined, greatly enhancing our ability to advance intentional endowment investing.

  • A full list of current members and information about membership may be found here.

 

New Publications

  • Business Case for ESG: A briefing paper developed to help trustees and other stakeholders understand what ESG investing is, how ESG investing and analysis can be approached, and how ESG investing strategies perform financially.

  • Investing in Clean Energy for Campuses and Endowments: A white paper designed to encourage conversation about the financial and societal benefits of clean energy investments higher education can make – both as a customer and an institutional investor through their endowments. It explores the current opportunities and barriers to such investments. 

  • Engaging Investment Managers on Proxy Voting: A brief guide outlining potential questions for investment managers on their proxy voting and other shareholder engagement activities around ESG.

  • The Intentionally Designed Endowments Primer: An updated version of our Primer provides a baseline understanding of the key issues related to aligning investment practices with institutional mission and values, and includes new examples of how some endowments navigating this process.  

  • These and other resources developed by IEN can be found here.

 

Forums and Education Events

  • Innovations in ESG: Hosted at Bloomberg L.P. offices in New York with Henley Business School at University of Reading, this forum focused on bridging the academic activities around sustainable investing on campuses with endowment investing practices. (150 participants)  

  • San Francisco State University Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum: Two-day forum included participants from across California State University and University of California systems, with keynote presentations from Ira Ehrenpreis of DBL Partners and Jagdeep Bachher, CIO and VP of Investments for the University of California, Regents. (100 participants)  

  • Loyola University Chicago Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum: One hundred and thirty attendees from around the country participated in educational and strategy sessions, and heard from Jeremy Coller of the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) initiative, David Blood of Generation Management and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson of the Paulson Institute and Risky Business Project. (120 participants)  

  • Webinars: Free to the public, webinars were offered on Investing in Clean Energy, Transitioning to Integrating Investment Practices with Program Mission, Carbon and Investment Implications for Fiduciaries, and Proxy Voting. (250 participants)  

  • Resources, videos, webinar recordings and other information about past events is available here.

 

For more information our activities, visit IEN activities to date.


We have an ambitious agenda for 2017. We plan on holding another Forum in the early fall (location and dates TBD), as well as smaller roundtable meetings with a few local endowments in a region. We continue to ramp up our webinar series, engaging the network virtually to continue these conversations and learning between meetings. IEN working groups are expanding activities with new work streams focused on:

  • Facilitating more peer-to-peer networking among investment committee members from different institutions
  • Enhancing support for proxy voting and shareholder engagement
  • Supporting development of Investment Policy Statements that integrate SRI/ESG strategies
  • Creating a network of student managed investment funds focused on SRI/ESG investing
  • Further exploration of opportunities for investing in clean energy

We also plan to continue to build on our work around how endowments can align investments with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including collaborating with WRI in supporting their development of an investment framework for the SDGs.   

Thank you again for your support, encouragement and participation. As always, we encourage your input, ideas, and initiative in determining where the Network should focus its efforts. We look forward to exploring new opportunities with all of you for catalyzing effective action on sustainable investing.

With warm regards, 

Georges, Tony, and the IEN Team