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?
- Invite diverse voices to the board
- Use these general tools for facilitating dialogue
- Engage an investment consultant to facilitate this step
- Hear from peers who have been through this process:
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:
- Campus-wide Dialogue through town halls, debates, lecture series, articles in campus publications, etc.
- Committee on Investor Responsibility to liaise between stakeholders and decision makers
- Student-led sustainable investing fund to function as a pilot for developing a sustainable investing framework
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.