2022 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit 

It was inspiring coming together virtually at the 2022 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit to reflect on our accomplishments and be empowered to pursue climate justice with dedication for a just and carbon free society.

About the 2022 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit
The Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, hosted the Intentional Endowments Network and  Second Nature is the premier annual gathering of higher education leaders committed to addressing inequality and the climate crisis. The 2022 Summit (April 5-8, 2022) brought together over 650 registrants16 sponsors23 Host Institutions and 11 organizational partners and provided the space for courageous conversations, creation of new partnerships, connect with peers and cross-sectoral climate sectors to find solutions to the most consequential climate and justice issues of our time. 

Sessions Highlights

The four days of the programing covered a range of higher education sustainability topics across operations, endowment investing, academics, and policy. These conversations offered participants unique opportunities to connect on the urgency of climate action and the ways to drive capital toward solutions and frontline communities.

The Summit opening Keynote session, Towards a New Mission for Higher Education, featured Dr. David Orr, Dr. Santa Ono, Terri Taylor and Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei who discussed engagement and collaboration opportunities Higher Education need to explore in order to address the complexities of climate justice in their respective campuses. The speakers highlighted the need for higher education institutions to establish a balance between the tragic sense of life with technological optimism, the necessity to empower students and collaborate with the governments and to focus on the problems and solutions that will have the biggest impact. Watch session recording 

Higher education needs to rethink and redefine its mission in this time of extreme inequality, climate crisis, and threats to democracy." David Orr

It is incumbent upon institutions that value evidence-based reporting and the truth to take a strong stance in prominent media and our own communication channels. Democratic nations and institutions are fragile but the climate crisis is upon us and not going to wait for democracy to spread around the globe so we need to work with everyone and cooperate on existential challenges to address the problem democratic or not." Dr. Santa Ono

"1 in 10k of non-green jobs transition into a green job. We need to educate students and incorporate climate plans." Terri Taylor 

"When we deprive ourselves of having everyone at the table we limit our ability to generate solutions." Dr. Fatemeh Shafiei


On the second day of the Summit we had a plenary session conversation on Integrating Sustainable Investment Options into Higher Ed Retirement Plans featuring Ali Khawar, Acting Assistant Secretary U.S. Department of Labor, Tiffany McGhee, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Investment Officer Pivotal Advisors, Amy O'Brien, Global Head of Responsible Investing Nuveen (A TIAA Company) and David Finegold, DPhil President Chatham University

The panel members elaborated on the importance of having sustainable investment options to drive impact and ways higher education employees can advocate for ESG options. Employees of all 4500 colleges and universities in the U.S have invested about 1 trillion  their retirement savings. The Schroders’ retirement survey showed that 9 of 10 of those surveyed would like a sustainable investing option and 69% of them said that they would consider putting more money in their accounts if it was available. Watch session recording

It is time for a movement where [a sustainable retirement plan] is looked at in a more holistic way and open the conversation around what’s going on in the retirement plans.” Amy O'Brien

“If you are not an expert about this topic then you should hire someone that is.” Tiffany McGhee

“Once the new rule is out, I recommend the managers to engage in a conversation with your supervisor about what’s taken into account and how to keep it into account.” Ali Khawar


Summit participants were privileged to listen to Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, Director of Native Student Services University of South Dakota as a keynote who spoke on Beyond Land Acknowledgements - How Higher Education Can Commit to Transformative Change.

Megan accentuated on the fact that acknowledgment of dispossession is an important component of land acknowledgments. Acknowledging the land that institutions reside on is a result of land acquisition hence campuses don't own the land and to imply otherwise is offensive to tribal communities. She recommended in addition to making land acknowledgements, Higher Institutions should partner with tribal communities and work toward repareations by either giving the land back, or provide tuition free education to natives of the lands on which the universities are located. Watch session recording

"I can remember the first time I heard a land acknowledgment. I felt seen."  Megan Red Shirt-Shaw

"We think of land as something that we own; the notion of buying land is offensive to Native people who were disposed of those locations, but instead think of having a relationship with land by thinking how often we connect (have a relationship) with nature, land and earth." Megan Red Shirt-Shaw

2022 Summit Session Recordings

The 2022 Summit sessions recordings is currently available. See some of the sessions recordings below: 

Endowments Sessions

Net Zero/JEDI Sessions


Asses the full summit playlist here 

Thank You to Our Sponsors, Host Institutions and Organizational Partners

Without you, this event wouldn't have been possible!


We will be back in-person for the 2023 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Miami, Florida.

Questions? Please contact Nicole Torrico at [email protected].

Get up to date IEN News

Sign up for our Newsletters