Build Consensus

Once there is some baseline knowledge and key questions have been answered, it will be possible and helpful to build consensus. Areas that endowment stakeholders may need to get on the same page about include: a shared definition of the institution’s sustainability goals, how the endowment investments may be used to support institutional purpose, and what timeline is realistic for implementing sustainable investing strategies. Consensus-building can take place among a full group or subset of fiduciaries including trustees, the investment committee, CIO's and CFO's, and/or with a broad campus community including students, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, and neighbors.


1. Build Consensus Among Trustees and Other Endowment Fiduciaries through Dialogue and Action

Conversations among trustees and other endowment fiduciaries can challenge the participants to investigate their investment beliefs, their world views and their values. Often, these conversations occur in the midst of a politically charged atmosphere.

How can you move the process forward?

Stories from the Boardroom - Leadership Governance & Fiduciary Duty (2016) 

Stories from the Boardroom - Building Consensus for Sustainable Investing Panel (2016)  

Endowment Investing Forum Panel Learning, Building Consensus, and Setting Policy (2020)

Plenary Panel: Aligning Higher Ed Endowment Investing with Climate Leadership Goals (2020)


2. Build Consensus by Establishing a Community-wide Dialogue

Engaging all stakeholders is a way the board and endowment managers can draw on the creativity and intellectual capacity of the community. Furthermore, engagement signals to the community that the university or foundation is taking action on sustainability issues including racial justice, inequality, and the climate crisis.

There are a number of vehicles for involving campus stakeholders in the learning and conversation about sustainable investing. Here are a few that have been used successfully by higher education institutions - click on each for tools to implement these strategies:


3. Use Convincing Arguments and Evidence to Build Consensus

To strengthen shared understanding and overcome resistance, try sharing some of the key soundbites that IEN has gathered and evidence in other IEN publications.



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