Weekly News Round-Up: November 1, 2019

As we close out a busy news week and close out Campus Sustainability month, I want to say thank you (and ask that you take a moment to thank a colleague) for your efforts to keep equity and sustainability at the center of our work together. We are thinking of colleagues who are doing so while being impacted by the fires in California.

We’re looking forward to connecting as a network on our November 7th webinar - Using Endowment Portfolios to Invest in Sustainable Forestry Strategies in the U.S. We will also be announcing new session topics and speakers for the 2020 Higher Education Climate Summit - stay tuned for more updates throughout the month of November, and let us know what else you would like to see, do, learn, and share in Atlanta in February 2020

IEN in the News

Fiduciary Responsibility, Climate Change Bids Investors into Action | Chief Investment Officer

  • The known and moreover unknown investment challenges presented by climate change are increasingly provoking institutional investors into action. While the approach to managing sustainable risks may differ across portfolios, the impetus for addressing climate concerns remains the same: to act as prudent investors. This article includes IEN Managing Director Alice DonnaSelva’s observations on endowment investing trends, and summarizes recent action by Harvard Management Company, the Church of England, the University of California, NEPC, Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System, and Unitarian Universalist Association.

ESG & Community Impact Investing Roundtable - Event Summary | Intentional Endowments Network blog

  • On September 6th, 2019, IEN organized the ESG & Community Impact Investing Roundtable at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The half-day event brought together a diverse group of endowment decision-makers, investment firms, nonprofit leaders and other stakeholders looking to enhance ESG integration into their investment process to positively impact communities near their campuses and around the world.
 

Opportunities for Action

Endowment Watch | Diverse Asset Managers Initiative

  • Higher education has been a sector of American economic society that fails to report on the demography of endowment fund managers. That’s why DAMI created Endowment Watch, a national campaign calling on universities to be transparent and intentional about who exactly is managing their assets. Join higher education institutions like Georgetown University in their efforts to track and report who manages their assets. Learn more about the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative here.

Call for Leadership Applications | AASHE

  • Deadline: November 6. AASHE is now accepting applications for its Board of Directors, Advisory Council and STARS Steering Committee. Since the approval of AASHE’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policy in 2018, the organization has continued to address the need to increase diversity and inclusion, and emphasize the interconnectedness of racial equity & social justice with sustainability. All members who are passionate and interested to apply, and AASHE particularly welcomes and encourages applications from people of color.

Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change | The Investor Agenda

  • Deadline: November 22, 2019. For Climate Week, 515 investors managing $35 trillion in assets released the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change - that's the largest-ever group of investors calling on governments to step up climate ambition. The statement is still open for signature by institutional investors worldwide!

Sign-on Opportunities:

 

New Resources & Reports

Tips on Searching for the Best OCIO in a Growing Market | Chief Investment Officer

Cities at Risk: Dealing with the Pressures of Climate Change | CDP

  • In this report, CDP analyzes climate risk dislosures by 620 cities around the world. With rapid, unprecedented urban growth expected to continue in the coming decades, cities' vital infrastructure and social care services are already under pressure. Climate change is only set to exacerbate these existing social and economic challenges, as its physical impacts are set to bring major disruption to government and business operations.

Feeding Ourselves Thirsty | Ceres

  • The 2019 edition of this benchmarking report looks at how 40 of the largest food companies have managed water risk in their operations and global supply chain. Findings include: A third of companies now charge boards and senior executives with overseeing water risks and strategies; Less than a third of companies link executive compensation to achieving water and other sustainability goals; The vast majority of companies now have targets to reduce water use/intensity for their direct operations; and only 25% of companies have set more ambitious targets for regions with high water risks.
 

Sustainable Investing By Institutional Asset Owners

State Treasurers, NYC Comptroller, & Private Institutional Investors Launch Northeast Investors’ Diversity Initiative | Connecticut State Treasurer

  • Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden, along with institutional investors from states across the region, announced the Northeast Investors’ Diversity Initiative, a regional partnership dedicated to increasing corporate board diversity—inclusive of gender, race, and ethnicity—at companies headquartered in the Northeast. With a total of more than $283 billion in assets under management, the investor coalition intends to leverage their corporate relationships and shareholder rights to encourage boardroom diversity and inclusion. Modeled after the successful Midwest Investors’ Diversity Initiative, the Northeast initiative will engage mid-sized regionally-based companies on improving board diversity as a way to protect shareholder value and maximize returns.

Middlebury Voted to Divest. Now What? | Middlebury Campus

  • This article provides an in-depth look at the divestment movement, decision, and implementation path forward at Middlebury, with context from around the U.S.

N.J. Religious College Pledges $28m for Slavery Reparations | ABC Local 10 News

  • The Princeton Theological Seminary is pledging to spend nearly $28 million on reparations over its ties to slavery, an effort believed to be one of the largest of its kind.

UVM Moves to Invest Millions More in Sustainability Projects | Vermont Cynic

  • The University of Vermont (UVM)’s vice president of finance has agreed to double the amount of cash UVM has invested in environmentally friendly bonds from $10 million to $20 million, at the student government association’s request. The now $20 million invested in green bonds is part of UVM’s $200 million of cash, which the administration controls; separately, UVM’s over $500 million endowment is controlled by the board of trustees and has faced calls by students to divest an estimated $27 million from fossil fuels.
 

Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing

Indigenous Communities Ripe for Wave of Capital for Good | Reuters

  • North American investors seeking to do good as well as make financial returns could be overlooking an untapped opportunity on their own doorstep - indigenous entrepreneurs. From renewable energy to traditional handicrafts, investing in indigenous ventures is bound to create social impact because their communities have so little, said Michelle Fox, managing director of NDN Partners, which supports indigenous ventures.

OpenInvest Powers Investments that Support People with Disabilities | PR Newswire

  • Investors can now direct their investments to companies that follow best practices of engaging people with disabilities thanks to a new service from IEN member OpenInvest. Disability Inclusion is the 16th values-based category OpenInvest offers to investors on its separately managed account platform.

There’s a New Way for Investors to Turn a Profit While Helping California Prevent Fires | CNBC

  • The Forest Resilience Bond was developed by the nonprofit investment firm Blue Forest Conservation, a Sacramento, California-based start-up, in partnership with World Resources Institute. It seeks to lower the risk of dangerous and destructive wildfires by shifting the heavy costs of forest restoration from the state’s forest service to private investors. Register for IEN’s November 7th webinar to learn about other sustainable forestry investment strategies.

Ceres Launches New Center to Accelerate Efforts to Transform Capital Markets and Drive Wholesale Action on Climate Crisis | Ceres

  • Ceres launched a new multi-million dollar center, the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, to ramp up efforts to transform the practices and policies that govern capital markets in order to accelerate wholesale action on reducing the worst financial impacts of the global climate crisis and other sustainability threats.

As Investors Try To Be More Ethical, Some Find No Escape From Businesses They Detest | NPR

  • This article summarizes recent trends in sustainable investing, including the ambiguity that can lead to confusion about how sustainability is being defined and evaluated.

Decarbonisation Linked to Better Returns | Top 1000 Funds

  • As concerns about climate change reach fever pitch, Harvard Business School has published a report that shows investment strategies that “aggressively” reduce carbon emissions can significantly boost fund performance.

ESG Funding Skyrocketed in 2018 | Chief Investment Officer

  • Willis Towers Watson’s Thinking Ahead Institute released new research that showed the largest 500 asset managers increased their positions in ESG by 23.3% in 2018 compared to their overall assets. Client interest in sustainable investing rose 83%. This is despite the overall downward trend in assets under management at the largest firms.

Sustainable Investment Scepticism Declines as Climate Change Concerns Rise | Investment Week

  • The number of sustainable investment cynics has nearly halved in the past three years, from 20% to 11%, while climate change has become the focus of shareholder engagement, according to the Schroders Institutional Investor Study 2019. 

Problem Portfolio Companies Are an Issue for Investors | Pensions & Investments

  • Many investors are laser-focused on ESG, but challenges remain in alternative investment portfolios: when portfolio companies violate limited partners' ESG policies, win-win options for investors are as rare as actual unicorns. That's a big difference from public equity investments, in which investors have the option to quickly exit the investment. 

Responsible Junk | Institutional Investor

  • This interview explores an ESG-based approach to high-yield bond investing.
 

Shareholder Engagement

U.S. SEC to Propose New Regulations for Proxy Advisers | Reuters

  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to propose new limits on shareholders’ ability to call for change at companies, including requiring proxy adviser firms to give companies two chances to review proxy materials before they are sent to shareholders, and increasing the re-submission thresholds for motions that shareholders file at companies on issues ranging from executive compensation to climate change disclosures. The regulator is expected to vote on the changes on Nov. 5.

Did Exxon Deceive Its Investors on Climate Change? | New York Times

  • The New York attorney general’s office takes its case against Exxon Mobil to trial, arguing that one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies misled its shareholders and the public by misrepresenting the risks that climate change poses to the value of its oil and gas assets. The lawsuit is one of several the company is facing that if successful, would force Exxon Mobil, which took in some $290 billion in revenue last year, to account for the true costs of its nature-crushing fossil fuel business, making it less competitive with wind, solar and other renewable energy sources and thus accelerating the transition to a clean-energy economy.

Sierra Club Sues SEC Over Denial of Climate-Related Shareholder Resolutions | Pensions & Investments

  • A frustrated Sierra Club is suing the SEC to see if the regulator is denying too many shareholder resolutions on climate change.
 

Sustainable Business Spotlight

Read the latest observations on sustainable business trends from Greenbiz:

Good Business | Bloomberg

  • In Bloomberg’s weekly guide to sustainable finance, read about green bonds, the auto industry’s reaction to conflicting views from CA and DC, ongoing lawsuits against Exxon Mobil, carbon farming, and more.
 

Socially Responsible Retirement Funds

How to (Carefully) Implement ESG in 401k Plan Lineups: Excel 401(k) Conference | 401k Specialist

ESG in DC: Despite Headwinds, More Plans Embracing Responsible Investing | Pensions & Investments

  • In this interview, IEN members Natixis Investment Management and Calvert Research and Management, as well as Manulife Investment Management,  demystify the confusion around ESG perspectives for DC plans, decipher the fiduciary concerns and offer ways for plan sponsors to move forward to embrace ESG investing.
 

Community Impact Investing

ESG & Community Impact Investing Roundtable - Event Summary | Intentional Endowments Network blog

  • On September 6th, 2019, IEN organized the ESG & Community Impact Investing Roundtable at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The half-day event brought together a diverse group of endowment decision-makers, investment firms, nonprofit leaders and other stakeholders looking to enhance ESG integration into their investment process to positively impact communities near their campuses and around the world.

Community Impact Investing | GreenMoney Journal

After Billionaire Dan Gilbert Criticized for Opportunity Zones, Company Blasts Back | Forbes

  • This article examines the risk of Opportunity Zone designations being influenced by wealthy investors set to benefit from the Zones’ tax incentives.
 

Green Bonds

Green Bonds Might Soon Find Their Ultimate Buyer: Central Banks | Bloomberg

  • Central banks are finally putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainable financing, opening up a new source of demand for the budding asset class.

Climate-Activist Countries Fuel Record Year for Green Bonds | Wall Street Journal

  • Chile and the Netherlands have issued about $9 billion in 2019 to help fund environmental projects.
 

Gender Lens Investing

Sallie Krawcheck’s Ellevest Launches Women-Focused Impact Investment Portfolio | Forbes

  • Last week, Ellevest, the digital investment platform for women, launched its female-focused Intentional Impact Portfolios. The portfolios are designed to help people invest in companies with products, policies and practices that benefit women and away from companies that are harmful to them.

Women Still Have Less Access To Fundraising, But Tech Can HelpForbes

  • According to a recent report, just 0.5% of female founders make it past a Series C funding round. And, despite efforts to improve access for women in business, female-founded startups raised only 2.2% of U.S. venture capital investment in 2018. Across different fundraising levels, women in business face roadblocks that their male counterparts often don’t encounter. Whether these roadblocks stem from a lack of network, awareness or other issues, there is an opportunity for the tech industry to step up and contribute to resolving some of these bias-driven problems that are so commonly found at the core of tech communities.
 

Student Managed Funds & Sustainable Finance Curriculum

New Pitt Center Engages Companies in Sustainable Business Practices | University of Pittsburgh

  • The University of Pittsburgh announced its Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) will engage leading global and regional companies to integrate environmental and societal concerns into their business models. The CSB, established in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, will work with companies managing the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit.
 

Investment Firm News

NEPC Defines the Future Fundamentals of Investing | NEPC

  • IEN member firm NEPC, an independent investment consultant and private wealth advisor, unveiled the Future Fundamentals of Investing. The research-driven firm identified sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and innovation as the three new future fundamentals of investing and the largest drivers of investment success.

Powering Better Investments | Entrepreneur

  • Veteran investor Joseph Bernhard Mark Mobius, Founder, Mobius Capital Partners, advocates ESG-based investments and inspires people to invest for good - to make the world a better place.

TD Ameritrade Adding ESG Portfolios to 529 Plan | Pensions & Investments

  • TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan will soon offer ESG portfolios, along with its core traditional investing options.

Impact Investing Pioneer Waits for the Big Money to Step Up | Bloomberg

  • While powerhouses such as KKR, Blackstone Group, and Carlyle Group are all stepping up investments that drive environmental sustainability, far too much money is still missing out, according to Susanna Campbell, who manages the Norrsken Founders Fund.

Turner Impact Capital Poised to Acquire an Additional $1 Billion in Workforce Housing to Address Affordability Crisis in U.S. Cities | Business Wire

  • Turner Impact Capital, one of the nation’s largest real estate investment firms dedicated to social impact, is aiming to more than double its commitment to addressing the country’s severe housing crisis with the launch of a second multifamily housing fund to invest an additional $1 billion in affordable workforce apartment communities in major metropolitan areas.
 

Economic & Policy Shifts

PRI Asks Signatories to Join in Effort to Prod U.S. to Act on Responsible Investment | Pensions & Investments

  • The Principles for Responsible Investment will press U.S. policymakers to catch up on sustainable financial policy reforms.

Climate Solutions Caucus, Founded by Florida Congressmen, Established in the Senate | Sunshine State News

  • Founded by U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., at the start of 2016, the Climate Solutions Caucus defines it mission as “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Last week, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., launched the caucus in the Senate.
 
 

Climate Risk, Science, and Clean Energy

Environmentally Impacted Communities Benefit from Solar | 3BL Media

  • The ability to install rooftop solar systems and use clean, solar energy is often out of reach for many Southern Californian homeowners. This is especially true in communities prone to harmful health effects from air and other environmental pollution. Thanks to a new state program, more Southern California Edison homeowners in these environmentally impacted communities can now install rooftop solar systems. The Disadvantaged Communities – Single-Family Solar Homes Program will help income-qualified homeowners overcome the lack of capital or credit needed for solar rooftop installation.
 
 

General Higher Education Endowment News

Colleges Squawk Over Endowment Tax | Roll Call

  • In comments filed on a Treasury Department-issued guidance on the new endowment tax last month, Berea College said it believed Treasury’s interpretation of the tax would force it to pay $1 million a year. The college is asking Treasury to reconsider before finalizing the rules. Forty other schools that may have to pay, including seven of the eight Ivy League schools, filed comments with Treasury on October 1.

Despite Volatility, Endowments, Foundations Optimistic | NonProfit Times

  • Only 14 percent of nonprofits running endowments and foundations expect a recession within the next two years while 11 percent have made no adjustments to their portfolio’s risk exposure. Despite that, a slowdown in economic growth poses the greatest threat to short-term performance, according to almost half of respondents while about a quarter said that it’s political uncertainty, according to an online survey by the Endowments & Foundations Practice Group at consulting firm NEPC.

Endowment Index Edges Lower in Q3 | Chief Investment Officer

  • ETF Model Solutions’ Endowment Index, as calculated by Nasdaq OMX, declined 0.17% on a total return basis for the third quarter of 2019, compared with a global 60-40 stocks/bonds portfolio, which rose 0.33% during the same period. The index and the 60-40 portfolio have kept pace with each other so far in 2019, climbing 12.64% and 12.56% respectively year-to-date. The Endowment Index uses an objective methodology based upon the portfolio allocations of over 800 educational institutions managing over $600 billion in total assets.

Harvard’s Endowment Is Worth $40 billion—Here’s How It’s Spent | CNBC

Vanderbilt University endowment records 6.7% annual return | Pensions & Investments

 

General Higher Education Sustainability News

Vanderbilt Architect: Kendeda Building Is Southeast’s model | Living Building Chronicle

  • Vanderbilt University is an environmental leader in Nashville, and the Living Building Challenge certification is another avenue for the university to pursue in its efforts to foster a healthier, more sustainable environment for its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. Currently, Vanderbilt is pursuing a Petal Project certification through the Living Building Challenge in the university’s Peabody College neighborhood. This effort has created various opportunities for the university to engage with its surrounding community. Register to tour the Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech, which Vanderbilt is using as a case study, during the 2020 Higher Ed Climate Leadership Summit!

Free DCCCD Sustainability Summit Will Focus on Sustainability as a Social Justice Practice | North Dallas Gazette

  • When colleges adopt sustainability practices at an institutional level, they help ensure social justice, renewable energy, and quality education. IEN member the Dallas County Community College District hopes to expand on that mission during its annual Sustainability Summit set for Fri., Nov. 8

UNH, Eversource Unveil Sustainable Energy Partnership | Seacoast Online

  • The University of New Hampshire and Eversource announced an energy-saving and cost-effective partnership that is not only the first of its kind in the state, but also a continued effort to address the larger issues of climate change and carbon dioxide emissions at a local level.

Universities Must Act Swiftly and Independently on Climate Change | Times Higher Education

  • This open letter from academics and campaigners to sector leaders in the UK calls for urgent action.

The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2019 Edition | Princeton Review

  • The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2019 Edition
  • profiles 413 colleges the company chose out of nearly 700 schools it surveyed in 2018–19 with strong commitments to green practices and programs. Most of the schools that made the guide are in the U.S. Sixteen are in Canada. One is in Egypt, and one is in Greece.
 

Divestment Campaigns

Middlebury Voted to Divest. Now What? | Middlebury Campus

  • This article provides an in-depth look at the divestment movement, decision, and implementation path forward at Middlebury, with context from around the U.S.

Q&A: Fossil Free Stanford on Increasing Campus Awareness of Divestment | Stanford Daily

  • In this interview, members discuss Fossil Free Stanford, a student group advocating for Stanford to divest from fossil fuel companies. Fossil Free was founded in 2012, achieved coal divestment in 2014, and has recently reinvigorated its divestment campaign in the wake of Stanford’s release of its new Ethical Investment Framework in the spring. Previously, an Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility, which has since been dissolved, had recommended against total fossil fuel divestment.

Update on Divestment Pros and Cons Report Released by University Council | Varsity

  • The University Council this week published an update on an ongoing report on the advantages and disadvantages of a divestment policy. The update says that the University Council, Cambridge (UK)’s executive governing body, “fully supports the view shared across the University that progress needs to be made on identifying the best ways to deliver a zero-carbon future.”

Harvard Agrees to ‘Divest’ — Just Not from Prisons | Harvard Crimson

  • This opinion piece compares the response to revelations surrounding billionaire Jeffrey E. Epstein’s human trafficking and his extensive connections to Harvard, to the response to calls for Harvard to divest from prisons.
 

Partnership Opportunities
 
Calendar of Upcoming Events

IEN Events:

IEN Webinar: Using Endowment Portfolios to Invest in Sustainable Forestry Strategies in the U.S. | Intentional Endowments Network, November 7, 2019, 1-2pm EST (webinar)

2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit | Intentional Endowments Network and Second Nature, February 23-25, 2020, Atlanta, GA. Registration is now live, with early bird rates available! 

Other Events:

Including People with Disabilities in Nonprofits and Foundations: Accessibility & Equity Webinar Series | RespectAbility, November 6, November 13, November 20, December 4, December 11, January 7, January 9, January 15, all 1:30pm ET (webinars)

Agrifood Conversations | iSelect Fund, November 7, 2019, 3pm CT (webinar)

21st Annual Endowment and Foundation Forum | Opal, November 7-8, 2019, Boston, MA IEN members are eligible for 15% off registration.

Sustainability as a Social Justice Practice: Developing Resilient Strategies | Dallas County Community College District, November 8, 2019, Mesquite, TX

Everyone Should Get it — ESG | Pathstone, November 12, 2019, Boston, MA. Contact Events@Pathstone.com to request an invitation.

Racial Justice & Climate Change: The Industrial Agriculture Connection | RISE, November 12, 2019, 4-5:30pm PT (webinar) 

The Business Case for Water-Smart Boards: Lessons learned from State Street Global Advisors and Danone North America | Ceres, November 12, 2019, 11am-12pm EST (webinar) 

Census2020: Why and How It Matters for Impact Investing | Mission Investors Exchange, November 12, 2019, 3-4:30 EST (webinar)

SRI Conference l SRI Conference & Community, November 13-15, 2019, Colorado Springs, CO IEN Members can use code 'SRI30IEN' for a discount when registering.

2nd Impact Summit America | Phenix Capital, November 14, 2019, New York, NY. Asset owner IEN members are eligible for complementary registration.

NU Sustainable Investing Summit | Northeastern University, November 16, 2019, Boston, MA

Center for Financial Services Conference 2019: ESG Investing | Lehigh University, November 18, 2019, New York, NY

Using Internal Sustainability Funds to Drive ESG Performance | Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, November 19-22, 2019, Atlanta, GA

Are We Feeding Ourselves Thirsty? | Ceres, December 10, 2019, 12pm EST (webinar)

GreenBiz 20 | GreenBiz, February 4-6, 2020, Phoenix, AZ, IEN Members can use Discount Code GB20IE to receive 10% off registration. 

Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference | Social Enterprises, March 2-4, 2020, Eugene, Oregon, IEN Members can use Discount Code IENCOMMCOMP20 to receive 30% off the cost of registration.

Croatan Forum 2020 | Croatan Institute, April 27-29, 2020, Durham, NC

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