Arizona State University (ASU) became a founding member of the Intentional Endowments Network in 2016, though their sustainability journey began in 2006 with the founding of the School of Sustainability. Throughout the following years, ASU has been at the forefront of finding sustainability solutions. In their progress to align investment practices with their mission, they have developed sustainable investing policies, developed a carbon and ESG report for committee monitoring, and achieved Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon neutrality, among many other accomplishments. In January of 2022, ASU released their inaugural report sharing an update on their sustainable investing efforts.
The ASU Foundation has steadily been working alongside ASU to elevate sustainable, responsible, and impact investing approaches into the endowment strategy. The ASU Foundation’s current investment priorities are centered on climate and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (Figure One). Their Sustainable Responsible Impact Investing Report includes an overview of their holistic approach to meeting those priorities, including the policies and commitments they employ. Highlights from the report include:
- Commitment to IEN and Other Peer Learning & Action Networks: ASUF aligns with organizations committed to sustainable investing, including Intentional Endowments Network, which supports endowed institutions in their efforts to address inequality and the climate crisis. University Climate Change Coalition, a coalition of North American research universities committed to climate action and cross-sector collaboration. Confluence Philanthropy Belonging Pledge, an investor pledge to discuss racial equity in the boardroom and identify next steps, barriers, and resources “to advance the practice of investing with a racial equity lens.” Principles for Responsible Investment, an international network of investors working to advance sustainability principles into investment practices.
- Net Zero Commitment: In April 2021, the ASU Foundation announced a Net Zero commitment for its endowment portfolio to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The university is committed to achieving these aggressive sustainability goals by advancing technology and research, learning from implementation, and raising awareness of the urgency of climate change.
- Climate Investing: Within the scope of climate investment, the primary goal is to drive large reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions to contribute to the university’s goal of Net Zero Scope 3 emissions by 2035. This endowment has the ability to act as a catalyst, encouraging other universities to develop similar sustainable investment practices.
- Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI): JEDI aims to address societal inequities by the promotion of diversity and inclusion, health innovation, equitable governance, and educational innovation. The Foundation committed to BlackRock’s Impact Opportunities Fund with investments in minority-owned companies and undercapitalized communities to accelerate positive economic outcomes.
- Empowering the Next Generation of Impact Leaders: ASU emphasizes collaboration with students on their sustainable investing efforts through experiential learning. The Sustainable and Impact Finance Initiative was formed by students to provide hands-on investment opportunities with the support of the ASU endowment. The W.P. Carey School of Business has also launched a sustainable investing course.
- Shareholder Engagement Efforts: ASU works in collaboration with its students to boost its shareholder engagement efforts. One example is an engagement between students and Chevron to discuss sustainable business practices. Through another engagement strategy, a student group within ASU has begun working to increase diversity, especially board diversity, across S&P 500 companies. The Foundation also developed proxy voting guidelines to help shape a stronger investment portfolio alongside 20 undergraduate and graduate students.
Figure One: A Visual Overview of the ASU Foundation’s Current Investment Priorities
Above all, the ASU Foundation notes the importance of collaborating with students on the sustainable investing journey through an interdisciplinary approach. The cultivation of future leaders is essential to continuing the work of sustainable and responsible investing.
Arizona State University is a participant or member in the following: IEN Founding Member, AASHE STARS, ACUPCC, Billion Dollar Green Challenge, Committee for Investor Responsibility, Sustainable Investment Fund, Sustainable Investment Policy, Steering Committee.
See here for more about ASU’s sustainable investing journey. The full report can be found here. To learn more about ASU’s work in this area, including their participation in various sustainable investing initiatives, visit their IEN Member profile page.
The Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) is a peer learning network of colleges, universities, and other mission-driven institutional investors working together to achieve their risk and return objectives through investment actions that create a thriving, sustainable economy. IEN has more than 200 network members including endowments, asset managers, investment consultants, nonprofit partners, and individuals.