April 2017 Newsletter

The theme of this month’s IEN newsletter is fiduciary duty, specifically focusing on how fiduciary duty principles influence the adoption of mission-aligned and socially responsible investment techniques. Of note, just last week, State Street released a report that found only 10% of survey respondents see fiduciary duty as a barrier to ESG investing, marking a clear shift. 

Our feature article was co-written by the Chair of our Fiduciary Duty & Policy Working Group, and offers an overview of how industry leaders are seeing fiduciary duty principles as a guide to the alignment of investment practices with their nonprofit's mission goals. The School Spotlight highlights Unity College and the fiduciary duty considerations that played into the College’s 2012 decision to become the first institution of higher learning in the United States to divest from their fossil fuel holdings.

We have numerous updates from the Network to share, including eight new contributing members, recordings and summaries of our recent webinars, and updates from our working groups. As always, your contributions to the conversation are welcome and needed. Please be in touch with any questions, news or ideas for the IEN.

Warm regards,

Tony Cortese, Georges Dyer & The IEN Team


Feature Article: Fiduciary Duties for Endowments and Foundations: Integrating Nonprofit Mission Goals into Investment Practices

By: Megan Jackson and Keith Johnson

This overview is intended to provide nonprofit investment fiduciaries with an overview of how industry leaders are seeing fiduciary duty principles as a guide to the alignment of investment practices with their nonprofit's mission goals. As more and more sophisticated investors find long-term competitive advantages in strategies that incorporate material environmental, social and governance ("ESG") factors into investment analysis, questions have arisen about whether fiduciary duties permit the use of such practices by foundations and endowments. We conclude that prudent adoption of mission-aligned investment techniques is consistent with, and even encouraged by, fiduciary duties. Read the full article here.

School Spotlight: Unity College

unity college logoIn the fall of 2012, the Unity College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest from investments in fossil fuels, making the College the first institution of higher learning in the United States to divest. Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College at the time of divestment, made the moral case for divestment to the college community in an open letter. “The colleges and universities of this nation have billions invested in fossil fuels. Like the funding of public campaigns to deny climate change, such investments are fundamentally unethical,” President Emeritus Mulkey wrote. “The Trustees have looked at the College’s finances in the context of our ethical obligation to our students, and they have chosen to make a stand.” Catching up with President Emeritus Mulkey five years later, we discussed how fiduciary duty considerations played into the initial conversations to divest. Read his reflections on the IEN Blog.



Featured Events: 

Impact Investing Forum 2017 l Opal Group, April 23, 2017 - April 25, 2017, Boca Raton, FL

opal group logoOpal Group's 2nd annual Impact Investing Forum will look at many of the asset classes that encompass this space. We invite you to join us and meet top influencers, experienced investors, money managers, and service providers that are leading the charge in this ever growing space. Themes of defining impact investing, portfolio construction, asset class opportunities, and the role of the investor are just a few of the stimulating topics to be covered at this event. This conference will exclusively feature dialogue driven panel discussions led by consultants and family offices. Tony Cortese will be speaking on a panel titled 'Breaking Down ESG Strategies and SRI Strategies.' Click here for more information and to few the agenda, and register here.

The Impact Capitalism Summit l Big Path Capital, April 25-26, 2017, Chicago, IL 

big path capitalThis year at the Impact Capitalism Summit in Chicago we will explore the progress of leading impact investment portfolios, discover the latest innovations across sectors, themes and asset classes, and identify the steps needed to harness the power of capital markets to build a sustainable, fair and just economy where opportunity and prosperity are shared by all. For more information click here, and register today!

Impact Investing Program: Driving Social Purpose Through Measurable Investment Returns
 l Skytop Strategies, May 24, 2017, Washington D.C.
skytopThis full day program will deliberate on best practices in impact investing, and how they generate measurable social, environmental and economic results through bridging the gap between purpose and profit. This program offers a distinctive convergence of high-level discourse between innovative thought leaders and practice experts, including institutional allocators, academics and investors, all of whom are helping to shape the next wave of impact investing. Georges Dyer will be speaking on a panel titled "The Power of the SDG: How It Might Align Performance and Scale Risk Control." For more information click here, and register today!


Updates from the Network 

New IEN Members

We are pleased to welcome the following new members to the Network: BlackRockPitzer CollegePathstone Federal Street, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS)NEPCMennonite Education Agency, and High Meadows Institute. To see a full list of contributing members, click here. To learn more about the leadership opportunities and benefits of IEN membership, click here.


IEN at the Second Nature 2017 Presidential Climate Leadership Summit

While at the Second Nature 2017 Presidential Climate Leadership Summit this February, members of the Intentional Endowments Network held a plenary panel focused on aligning higher education endowment investments with climate leadership goals. Speakers discussed the investment risks and opportunities posed by climate change, what the higher education sector can do in this area, and trends in business and the finance industry related to climate. To read more about IEN's relationship with Second Nature, and to watch a video of the panel, click here.

Working Groups

IEN Working Groups meet regularly to advance key strategies in support of the network's goals. Below is a brief update of what current Working Groups have accomplished.

  • Shareholder Engagement: The Shareholder Engagement Working Group hosted a webinar on February 27th on Proxy Voting and Shareholder Engagement for Endowments. The webinar provided an overview of the value of proxy voting and additional forms of engagement for endowments that are involved in commingled funds through an outsourced CIO – including the current landscape, trends, specific issues, and why it is important for investors. Click here to view a recording of the webinar. This working group is actively pursuing several ideas for potential resource generation.

  • Clean Energy: This Working Group is currently generating ideas for resources to build off of the Investing in Clean Energy: Campuses and Endowments White Paper released in November, 2016. Discussion is currently focused on a resource exploring greenhouse gas accounting and the pros and cons of purchasing offsets instead of directly investing in clean energy infrastructure on or near campus.

  • Trustee Engagement: This Working Group formed last November after several trustees at our Forum at Loyola University Chicago expressed interest in working together to create a peer-to-peer learning effort among trustees of colleges and universities on sustainable investing. Their first meeting will be in Chicago on April 26th, where they will work to develop a plan to increase trustee engagement surrounding sustainable investing.

  • Student Managed Funds: This Working Group connects student managed fund advisors, academics focused on sustainable investing, and students involved in student managed funds to share best practices and resources to advance sustainable investing curriculum and strategies in each fund. This Group has had two calls since it formed in February, and is in the process of developing a toolkit on how to start a sustainable investment fund, as well as a toolkit on shareholder engagement.

Higher Education and the Paris Climate Agreement Project

In December, IEN and The World Resource Institute (WRI) hosted an initial planning meeting with approximately 15-20 participants from schools, non-profits, the investment industry, and foundations to generate conceptual ideas and identify potential partners for a longer-term project on how higher education endowments can work toward meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. A report exploring key outcomes from the meeting is available here

Opportunities For Action

Put a Price on it Campaign Seeking College & University Endorsements

  • The Put A Price On It campaign is seeking endorsements from college and university presidents in support of carbon pricing, as an effective and pragmatic solution to climate change. The campaign, led by the non-profit Our Climate and the National Geographic series Years of Living Dangerously, works with student leaders across the country to build support for carbon pricing, and elevates the importance of the policy through film, celebrity endorsements, and social media. The president endorsement letter can be found online here, and questions can be directed to Page Atcheson at [email protected].


Upcoming Events

To view more upcoming events, click here

Featured Resources

Below are some recent resources from the Intentional Endowments Network and other organizations. To see more reports, articles, videos and other resources by topic, visit the resource page on our website.

Resources from IEN:

Other Resources:


In the News

Below is a sampling of recent news articles we've posted on our Newsfeed, ranging in topics from Sustainable Investing, Climate Risk, Science & Regulation, Sustainability in Higher Education, Divestment, Clean Energy, and more.

If you have an original piece you would like to submit for an upcoming newsletter, or for more information about the Intentional Endowments Network and how you can support this work, please contact Georges Dyer at [email protected].




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