The Warren Wilson College 2023 Shareholder Engagement Briefing Paper details the work of Warren Wilson College to increase financial returns by shifting corporate behavior through shareholder advocacy and proxy voting.
Warren Wilson College (WWC) is a liberal arts college in North Carolina and a leader in environmental and social sustainability. In the past 6 years, WWC has focused on applying environmental and social equity lenses to the management of its endowment, including publicly committing to divest from fossil fuels and integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into the investment process.
In 2019, WWC began exploring active ownership as a way to expand the positive societal and environmental impact of its investments, while also reducing risks and maximizing returns in its endowment portfolio. You can read a background on WWC’s work implementing sustainable investing strategies, with a focus on shareholder engagement, in IEN’s 2020 resource: Active Ownership in the Endowment: Warren Wilson College Case Study.
Warren Wilson College has partnered with the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) and As You Sow to engage with their investment companies, and as a result, can point to real change addressing the college’s two mission-driven focus areas: climate change and racial justice.
|Read the Briefing Paper|
Across the 2022-2023 engagement season (July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023), Warren Wilson College has signed 58 letters of authorization for engagement. Of these 58 signed letters of authorization, a satisfactory agreement was reached without filing for 10 of the engagements, and 6 more resolutions were filed and subsequently withdrawn as an agreement was reached. There were also 5 filed resolutions that went to a vote and 2 more currently in dialogue.
This engagement season, WWC has continued to use, As You Vote, As You Sow’s ESG aligned proxy voting service, to vote 1,090 proxy ballot line items at 1,067 companies, including many shareholder proposed ballot items.
Colleges and universities across the country can learn valuable insights from the process WWC has developed and followed to engage with the companies in their endowment investment portfolio through proxy voting and shareholder resolutions.
Warren Wilson College’s engagement work is a collective effort made possible through partnerships with the Intentional Endowments Network and As You Sow. The following people have played critical roles in both the implementation of the work outlined in this briefing paper, and the writing and review of this document:
Gail Follansbee, Shareholder Relations Manager, As You Sow
Rachel Lowy, Shareholder Relations Coordinator, As You Sow
Anthony Rust, Investment Committee Chair, Warren Wilson College
Nicole Torrico, Managing Director, Intentional Endowments Network
Julianna Trimboli, Sustainable Investing Intern, Intentional Endowments Network