Alice DonnaSelva published Warren Wilson College Leads the Way on being a Responsible Shareowner in Blog 2021-07-22 11:52:08 -0400
This post by Alice DonnaSelva, Senior Advisor at IEN elaborates on Warren Wilson College's partnership with IEN to adopt a robust climate change strategy that actively promotes racial and gender equity in their businesses.Read more
Alice DonnaSelva published 2021 Proxy Voting Campaign in Engaging Corporations 2021-03-24 13:30:53 -0400Many universities and colleges are now looking to make changes to their portfolio to meet the risks and leverage the opportunities related to climate change and racial and gender equity, but very few university and college endowments (and not very many foundations) take advantage of the power they have through their proxy vote.
Why Vote Our Proxies?
You can direct your external managers (even managers of commingled funds) as to how you want your proxies voted and hold them accountable for how they vote. If you have a public equity separate account, you can actively vote your proxies.
- It's an effective tool in aligning your current investments with your institutional mission while enhancing the long term value of the companies you own.
It's something you can do now that does not involve any change to your current portfolio.
“But proxy voting is complicated,” you say. “ Who has time?” you say.
IEN has launched a 2021 PROXY VOTING CAMPAIGN to make the process efficient and straightforward!
ACT NOW for the 2021 Proxy Voting Season (March - June)!
AND YOU HAVE 3 OPTIONS!
Download and send template letter A to your external managers to show your general support for climate change and social equity related resolutions and urging your managers to vote in favor of those resolutions. Then hold them accountable by requesting a report at the end of the proxy voting season (July).
Download and send template letter B to your external managers to customize the letter to specific resolutions you’d like to support. We’ve inserted 3 types of votes to support into Letter B with supporting arguments, but you can enter your own using our Resolution Tracker or any of other detailed resources provided by our partner organizations: As You Sow and ICCR. Again, hold them accountable by requesting a report at the end of the proxy voting season (July).
We will be sharing these templates with our sister organizations that work with foundations and we encourage you to share them with your higher education partners as well.
EASIEST OF ALL! Large asset manager firms such as BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity and T. Rowe Price have not historically supported proposals that hold companies accountable for their climate strategy or their stated promotion of racial and gender equity, and this has been the difference between whether or not the proposals receive majority support. If you are an investor in any BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity or T. Rowe Price fund (public equity or no) in either your endowment or your 403b plan, download, execute and send template letter C to your contact there. And then - you guessed it! - hold them accountable for how they vote.
We are looking forward to seeing your actions and your impact in the 2021 Proxy Voting Season!
MORE RESOURCES:The Interfaith Center On Corporate Responsibility’s (ICCR) 2021 Proxy Voting Guide - profiles more than 240 resolutions filed by ICCR members for the 2021 proxy seasonICCR’s Shareholder Resolution Lists ICCR member resolutions by companyProxy Preview 2021 - Proxy Impact, Si2 and As You Sow’s guide to the 2021 Proxy voting SeasonAs You Sow’s Shareholder Resolution Web Database- list of As You Sow associated shareholder resolutions - can filter by company, date, initiative and statusThe Engagement Agency Service - Focused on Engaging on the Business of Diversity Equity and InclusionAs You Vote - a new proxy voting service collaboration between Broadridge’s ProxyEdge voting platform and As You Sow to help you vote your valuesPRI’s latest paper Making Voting Count
Racial Equity Voting Guideline - SEIU and Majority Action
Alice DonnaSelva published Communicating Progress in Roadmap for Endowments 2020-10-05 17:30:46 -0400
Higher education endowments have a unique opportunity to lead on encouraging transparency in the financial industry and advancing the field of sustainable investing as they engage students and other stakeholders in a continuous learning process. Learning opportunities can also be tied back to the classroom, engaging students and faculty in carrying out research on real-world topics for endowment managers or running student-managed funds.
Sharing progress publicly on sustainable investment activities can signal to alumni, donors, students and faculty that the school fully embraces its mission and also provide ongoing education in this constantly evolving field.
There are many ways that institutions can leverage these activities to enhance their sustainability leadership and attract students and donors.
1. Work with IEN to create a case study or share story at an IEN forum or roundtable
2. Share progress in an industry publication
Matching Investments to Mission l by David Ellis, CFO, Becker College & IEN Member, NACUBO's Business Officer Magazine, March 2018
3. Report progress on your website
University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation's Responsible Investing Report
4. Earn recognition for the school working with organizations with expertise in sustainability
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) manages the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a self-reporting system through which participating institutions receive a rating of Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum based on their sustainability programs across the institution.Rated institutions are featured in the annual Sustainable Campus Index, which highlights top performers and best practices.
STARS provides a framework for understanding sustainability in all sectors of higher education and enables comparisons over time and across institutions using a common set of measurements.
Institutions can earn several points based on investment disclosure, having a committee on investor responsibility, and implementing sustainable investing activities.
Read more about the program and how to participate.
An organization that engages an international network of signatories to promote adoption of its Six Principles for Responsible Investment in investment decision-making.
The Accord is a commitment learning institutions are making to one another to do more to deliver the goals, to annually report on each signatory's progress, and to do so in ways which share the learning with each other both nationally and internationally. An objective is that sector SDG reporting metrics will be presented at the annual UN High Level Political Forum.
5. Join Investor Initiatives
Join investor groups and initiatives to access resources, learn from experts and peers, and signal to stakeholders that the institution is engaged in this process. Membership and participation in these various initiatives are complementary and not mutually exclusive. Click here to become a Member of IEN or here for a list of relevant initiatives.
Comprehensive sustainable investing strategy in an endowment can include divestment, ESG integration, engagement and thematic impact investing. With thematic impact investing, endowments can more specifically focus such investments on solutions that are aligned with their institution's mission.
For an introduction to impact investing, view IEN's webinar:
Introduction to Impact Investing | June 29, 2017
2019 Annual Impact Investor Survey | Global Impact Investing Network, 2019
Understanding The World of Impact Investing l Cambridge Associates, September 2016
Visit IEN's pages on common impact themes that endowments prioritize:
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, including tools for Investing in Racial Equity and Gender Lens Investing
- Climate Solutions Investing
- Community Impact Investing
- Investing in specific Sustainable Development Goals
Legislation around program related investments (PRIs) allowed for some private foundations to make mission-aligned investments as part of their 5% required payout. Many private foundations have since developed more comprehensive approaches to impact across their total portfolio. Here are some of their case studies:
IEN Briefing Papers
Past IEN Webinars
Addressing Climate Risk & Investing in a Low-Carbon Future Across Asset Classes l October 23rd, 2018
Animal Welfare as an Investment Risk & Opportunity | August 29, 2018
Introduction to Impact Investing | June 29, 2017
Sustainable Agriculture Investing | May 31, 2017
Gender Lens Investing | February 17, 2017
Investing in Clean Energy for Campuses and Endowments | December 13, 2016
Webinar: SDG Webinar Series: Zero Hunger l Responsible Investor, May 17, 2017, 9:00 AM ET
Webinar: SDG Webinar Series: Gender Equality l Responsible Investor, May 10, 2017, 9:00 AM ET
Webinar: SDG Webinar Series: Sustainable Cities and Communities l Responsible Investor, May 3, 2017, 9:00 AM ET
Impact Base - ImpactBase is the searchable, online database of impact investment funds and products designed for investors. Fund or product profiles published on ImpactBase gain exposure to the global impact investing community.
Some Approaches in Passively Managed Investments
Due to their broad investment mandate, passively invested index funds often contain exposure to companies or industries that institutions have decided to avoid either due to expected risk or to the institution's mission. Some options for divesting while maintaining passive market exposure are:
A. Finding a passively managed mutual fund, ETF or other commingled funds that excludes the given company/industry or product/service. Increasingly there are domestic, global, and international public equity options that avoid fossil fuel investments, and some exist that avoid tobacco. Still others will exclude more than one area of social concern such as weapons, tobacco and alcohol.
B. Convert your passively managed fund to a passively managed separate account which will allow you to customize the portfolio while still constraining tracking error to a benchmark. Today's optimizer tools can allow for fairly tight tracking error to a number of well-known benchmarks. Firms such as Aperio Group, Parametric Portfolio Associates and others provide such options.
C. As You Sow's Mutual Fund Screening Tool analyzes mutual funds for their percent exposure to fossil fuel, weapon, deforestation, and tobacco.
It is also possible to divest and incorporate ESG factors in the same portfolio. Visit this IEN Webinar for some examples: Passive ESG Strategies for Endowments | November 28, 2017
Fossil Fuel Divestment
Either due to a desire to align with a sustainable mission or out of concern for the potential risk of investing in companies whose energy assets may be stranded in the future, many institutions have been weighing the pros and cons of fossil fuel divestment. Each school's decision is unique to the institution.
Barnard College lays out its approach to divestment in this IEN webinar:
Universities in the UK discuss divestment in this IEN Webinar:
Learn more about addressing climate risks and opportunities through endowment investments here.
These resources on facilitating dialogue can be used in any setting. For more tips on applying these strategies to a community-wide dialogue, visit this page on establishing a campus dialogue.
- "How We Created an Outside-the-Box SRI Conference"| by Barbara Simonetti, GreenBiz, June 5, 2014. Description of how to design an interactive, participant-driven stakeholder engagement meeting
- Meetings that Matter, Conversations that Connect - Getting Started| by Barbara Simonetti, 2013
- National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation| Nearly 3,000 free resources related to facilitating engagement processes
- Positive Organizational Leadership and Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Phenomenon of Institutional Fossil Fuel Divestment. | Abrash Walton, A. (2016) Dissertations & Theses. Paper 269.
Webinar: Mission-Aligned Investing: What New Positive Deviance Research Can Tell Us About What Moves Institutional Investors to Action: March 2017
- Research findings related to mission-aligned investing, leadership, and the decision-making process to divest from fossil fuels by philanthropic organizations with assets under management from $5 million to $1 billion
- What factors supported decision makers in moving to mission-aligned investing while simultaneously exercising their fiduciary duty to steward institutional assets
- How the divestment decision affected the decision makers personally and their organization
Step 1: Educate yourself
Overview of trends in impact managing and what others are doing
- Impact-Financial Integration: A Handbook for Investors presents methods of impact financial integration developed and applied by the Impact Frontiersalong with examples and lessons learned.
Measuring Effectiveness: Roadmap to Assessing System-level and SDG Investing, examines how investors can chart a course to assess system-level issues (like those contained in the SDGs) appropriate for their specific situation, and then establish effective goals for influence against which to measure progress. In doing so, investors also can assess the potential usefulness of the tools available to them and the effectiveness of the tools they have selected. Ultimately, this approach enables investors to assess their influence in determining changes at the system-level itself and the potential contribution of their efforts and investments.The report is authored by William Burckart, Steve Lydenberg and Jessica Ziegler of The Investment Integration Project (TIIP) and was sponsored by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi).A companion document to the report, Measuring Effectiveness: Roadmap to Assessing System-level and SDG Investing-Supplemental Appendices, contains a series of appendices that provide tools and examples for investors, as well as additional context for and information about the concepts discussed.
Step 2: Set impact goals
Articulate desired impact and outcomes you are looking for and establish a clear investment thesis
- The Impact Management Project (IMP) aims to provide consensus on how to talk about, measure and manage impact, bridging the perspectives of 700+ investment, grantmaking, business, non-profit, social science, evaluation, wealth management, policy, standard-setting and accounting practitioners (among others).
Toniic SDG Impact Theme Framework links impact investing themes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goal of the framework is to allow impact investors to align their investments with the SDGs and the thereby find greater alignment and synergy in global investment opportunities
Step 3: Select relevant metrics and collect data
Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), B Lab - Data platform for collecting, benchmarking, and reporting on social end environmental impact of companies and funds. Features include pre-built metric sets, goal-setting functionality for investors, and the largest dataset of private company impact data.
Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) - IRIS metrics are designed to measure the social, environmental and financial performance of an investment. You can filter based on your investment priorities and focus areas. Started with reading Getting Started with IRIS.
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards - The GRI Standards lists over 400 indicators on on a range of economic, environmental and social impacts. Sustainability reporting provides information about corporate sustainability performance.
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Navigator - Sustainability research platform that helps investors find which ESG issues impact corporate performance and how well companies are disclosing on those issues.
- Navigating Impact -Created by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), the database helps investors select impact strategies and adopt metrics that indicate performance toward their goals.
Access Impact Framework - Cornerstone Capital Group’s framework illustrates how portfolios align in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a focus on access — access to the natural, human and economic resources.
Step 4: Analyze and report on impact
Toniic Impact Portfolio Tool – Version 2 - An Excel-based tool that allows an investor to classify every underlying investment by its intended impact, as well as other variables that investors take into consideration when designing their portfolios — such as liquidity, expected returns, geography, management structures, and more. The outputs of the tool are visual representations of the individual portfolios.
- For a list of companies that offer tools that make it easy to collect and report performance on SASB standards, see here.
Step 5: Revisit your impact management strategy
Assess whether you are on track to meet your targets and how your investment strategies can be improved.