Fall 2020 Newsletter

Quarterly Newsletter - Fall 2020


In these uncertain times, we remain focused on resilience and on building the economy, campuses, and communities we want. Over the last few months, we have showcased the work of Warren Wilson College to activate their ownership stake in order to align the endowment’s investments with the institution’s long-term interests. We have also been encouraged by the strong interest in IEN’s primer on Investing in Racial Equity - including a well-attended webinar on investing with diverse-owned asset managers, new signatories to the Belonging Pledge and an active town hall meeting of signatories. Stay tuned for a Racial Equity thematic track in the upcoming Climate Action Pursuit.

Please take a moment to visit IEN’s refreshed website, and let us know where you’d like us to focus in the year ahead (if you are already an IEN member, please do so by completing the annual member survey here)!

Warm Regards,

The IEN Team

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School Spotlight: Warren Wilson College

How can endowment leaders partner with the companies they own to create long term value? IEN’s new case study, Warren Wilson College: Active Ownership in the Endowment, describes a path all endowments can follow to exercise their ownership stake to ensure that companies are adequately addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities. Read the full case study and consider getting involved with IEN’s Shareholder Engagement Working Group.

Want to see other examples of endowments’ sustainable investing journeys? Take a look at our 2020 Endowment Snapshots Report.

Coming Soon: Climate Action Pursuit

The Higher Ed Climate Leadership Summit has been transformed for 2021, into a Climate Action Pursuit!

Throughout 2021, Second Nature and the Intentional Endowments Network will lead an ambitious pursuit of climate action, justice, and resilience. The Climate Action Pursuit is a brand new concept - a series of check-in points with flexible programming that supports participants’ work to act and lead on equity and climate on our campuses, in our communities, and across our society and economy.

The Climate Action Pursuit will bring people together in a series of milestone check-in points - in February, June, October, and December 2021 - for a flexible virtual program of learning, networking, and workshop sessions that give participants the tools and peer-support to accomplish their climate, resilience, and justice goals.

Mark your calendar for the first Climate Action Pursuit milestone February 24-26, 2021, sign up here for updates and to provide input on the program, and stay tuned for registration opening soon!
Updates from the Network
New IEN Members

We are pleased to welcome MOZAIK Philanthropy Inc, Eve Ellis, Sarasin Asset Management, and Diverse Asset Managers Initiative to the Network! To learn more about the leadership opportunities and benefits of IEN membership, click here.

IEN Team News

This fall we shared the bittersweet news that IEN Co-founder Tony Cortese is retiring. We are pleased that Gwladys Ngatchou has stayed on in a staff role this fall - you have probably seen her name on the Weekly News Round-up over the last few months! We are also joined this semester by fall intern Shawn Cain.


Visit an updated homepage reflecting our updated strategic plan, with deeper content on the network's focus areas and specific social equity and climate goals for intentional endowments, their consultants, their asset managers and the companies they own.

Walk through the updated Intentionally Designed Endowment Roadmap, which serves as a guide for navigating the rich resources compiled by the network in order to take action. If you already know which types of resources you need to take your next step forward, you can also navigate directly to an updated Resource Library full of tools, examples, and evidence.

Recent Webinars

IEN Members can access the following webinars through our member-only archive:

  • Integrating Sustainable Investment Options Into Retirement Plans – Fiduciary Duty Considerations | November 18, 2020
  • Measuring Impact in Endowment Portfolios | November 10, 2020
  • Investing Sustainably in a Time of Change | October 29, 2020
  • Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance: Latest Methodologies for Net Zero Portfolios | October 7, 2020
  • Introduction to the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) for Endowments | September 17, 2020
  • Endowment 101 l August 26, 2020
  • Allocating to Diverse-Owned Asset Managers | August 5, 2020
  • Beyond Divestment - Climate Change Strategies for Endowments (with PRI) | July 9, 2020
Upcoming Events

IEN Events:

How You Can Help Stop the Sixth Mass Extinction. The Importance of Considering Biodiversity Conservation When Constructing Your Portfolio | December 16, 2020 1-2pm ET

IEN Session at WOHESC: Investing in Sustainability: How to Leverage Your Institution’s Endowment | IEN, February 11, 2021, 11:30 am ET

Climate Action Pursuit - February Milestone | February 24-26, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - June Milestone | June 10-11, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - October Milestone | October 7-8, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - December Milestone | December 9-10, 2021


Other Events:

IMP Huddle Option 1: Impact Management for Social Equity | November 30, 2020

RI Digital: USA 2020 Conference | Responsible Investor, December 2nd-3rd 2020

IMP Huddle Option 2: Impact Management for Social Equity | December 3, 2020

Rethink, Rebuild, Recover a New Vision For a Better Tomorrow | Reuters Event, January 11-14, 2021

Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WOHESC) | Social Enterprises, February 11 - 12, 2021, 11am ET As a Community Partner for the WOHESC our members can use a 30% discount code during registration.

To view more upcoming events, click here.

IEN's Focus Areas
SIILK (Sustainable & Impact Investing Learning & Knowledge) Network

In the past few months, the SIILK Network has continued to connect with students, faculty, and staff on their work with sustainably invested student-managed funds and sustainable investing curriculum. SIILK’s focus this fall has been on developing this year’s Student Corporate Engagement Competition and recruiting participants and sponsors. If interested in learning more about the Competition, additional SIILK programming, or connecting with stakeholders to share best practices and advance the sustainable investing education space, please reach out to Nicole at [email protected].

Sustainable Retirements: ESG Options for Retirement Plans

Watch the recording of our recent webinar on Fiduciary Duty which was postponed from June due to proposed changes by the Department of Labor on the use of ESG in ERISA plans. In September, we joined a coalition of investor groups in sharing an analysis of the comments to that proposed rule, which overwhelmingly showed investor opposition. Since September, we have been holding a free series of small-group virtual meetings between stakeholders interested in advancing Sustainable Retirement conversations within their institutions, and members of our Expert Panel (Federated/Hermes, Gitterman Wealth Management, Mercer, Momentum Advisors, Natixis, Schroders). The Experts Panel is a resource that can: Share their expertise and experience, Address questions, and Provide coaching, resources, and insights on how best to move forward. The focus groups are small informal conversations, under the Chatham House Rule, to learn from peers and experts about issues like - what ESG options are available? How do they perform financially? Are ESG options riskier? What are the relevant issues around Fiduciary Duty? And any other questions you may have. Please reach out to [email protected] if you would be interested in joining a focus group conversation, and/or use this link to receive updates on this work.

Supported by Natixis, Federated Hermès, Gitterman Wealth Management, and Schroders

Net Zero Endowments

In recent months, several leading endowments, including Harvard, Stanford, and Cambridge, have made commitments to Net Zero Portfolios. IEN is developing a new initiative on Net Zero Endowments, with a series of educational programs and peer-learning opportunities focused on this topic. We have partnered with the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance (AOA) on this effort; and will be supporting endowments in making net zero commitments, and participating in collective shareholder engagement activities. Visit our new webpage on Net Zero Endowments, where we will be adding relevant resources and programming, and join us for the Climate Action Pursuit, which will include a focus on making and implementing these commitments.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The DEI working group launched the Investing in Racial Equity: A Primer for College & University Endowments in August and have organized a series of webinars to support endowment progress around the new primer’s Call to Action. We continue to organize calls every 3-4 months to exchange resources, outline our strategies for 2021, and collaborate for action. The Group is currently seeking sponsors to advance the DEI work. If you are interested in learning more about this work, please reach out to Kaede at [email protected].

Fiduciary Duty & Policy

The Fiduciary Duty Working Group welcomed new members from Sage Advisory, Mantle314, the World Wildlife Fund and the Tuck Center for Business, Government and Society. The working group has focused on providing support to the Retirement Initiative and to broadening IEN’s outreach to trustees to a number of trustee organizations for nonprofits, family offices and foundations through a joint marketing and communications agreement. A few members of the working group continue to work on developing a training program for lay fiduciaries including those at colleges and universities, foundations, pension plans, and personal trusts. They plan to deliver executive education on fiduciary leadership, stewardship and governance and are looking for a host institution. If you have any questions or are interested in this work, please reach out to Alice at [email protected].

Shareholder Engagement

After a pilot program to support Warren Wilson College in practicing active ownership, IEN took time to reflect on our learnings and to design and seek funding for a shareholder engagement program to help more endowments effectively engage companies particularly to advance efforts in creating net zero portfolios and to advance racial justice. We have been connecting with possible collaborators in this work such as ICCR, As You Sow, Thirty Percent Coalition, The Shareholder Commons and Majority Action. Having recently learned that we will receive some grant funding for the project, we look forward to reconvening this working group to move this important program forward. In the meantime, we have continued to notify our members of opportunities for investor action around companies' ESG issues (particularly related to the current racial justice movement and public health crisis), through sign-on letters and commitments. Please reach out to Alice at [email protected] if you are interested in participating in this work.

Trustee Peer Group

The trustee peer group has been sharing insights on the governance and implementation processes for sustainable investing by endowments, and connecting with peers on other Boards that are undertaking these processes. This month, we shared a presentation from The Boarding School on their work to support more young people in becoming Trustees, including through their Harvard Forward and Yale Forward campaigns. If you are a trustee and interested in participating in this group, please reach out to Georges at [email protected].

Featured Resources
Resources from IEN

To see more reports, articles, videos and other resources by topic, visit the resource library on our website.

Other Resources from the Field
In the News
IEN in the News

Read more coverage of the network here

Recent Announcements About Higher Education Endowments Aligning Their Investments with Institutional Goals
  • University of Michigan Board of Regents announced Feb. 20 it will pause new direct fossil fuel investments while considering adjustments to the university’s policies on how it invests endowment funds.
  • University of Reading is selling all its remaining investments in fossil fuels and putting its money behind green schemes following the appointment of fund manager Cazenove Capital. The Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) helped the tender process.
  • Queen’s University (Canada) Board of Trustees unanimously approved the recommendations of the Climate Change Action Task Force, including a pledge to reduce the carbon intensity of the University’s investments.
  • Santa Monica College announced a new endowment named in honor of George Floyd, the black man killed by police in Minneapolis last month.
  • Cambridge University aims to divest from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels by 2030 as part of the University’s plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2038, more than a decade before the date set by the UK Government.
  • Yale University’s Chief Investment Officer David Swensen has publicly instructed the firms who manage the University’s endowment to diversify their ranks — or risk Yale pulling its money from them.
  • University Of Toronto Asset Management Corporation is one of the three finalists for Canadian Investment Review’s first Pension Leadership Awards in the category of Sustainable Investing.
  • Church Of England’s pension board is now fully divested from the oil giant for not meeting key climate criteria.
  • University Of Toronto Asset Management Corporation decided to embed responsible investing across the organization and has implemented a comprehensive approach to evaluating managers, which includes a relevant section in its investment due diligence memos.
  • Newnham, Robinson, St. John’s and Fitzwilliam have all publicly announced, for the first time, that they are partially divested from fossil fuels.
  • University of Oxford and Lombard Odier announced the launch of a new multi-year partnership to foster research and teaching on sustainable finance and investment, with a particular focus on climate change, circular economy and nature.
  • World Resources Institute’s investment committee approved a new Climate Change Investment Statement (CCIS) with a goal to align WRI’s endowment with the Paris Agreement. To advance this goal, WRI has committed to transition the portfolio to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and to prioritize investments that support a just and resilient transition.
  • Will Colleges’ Shift to Sustainable Investing Continue Amid the Pandemic? - Coronavirus is not stopping academic institutions from leaning into socially responsible, environmentally conscious investing.
  • Inquiry into the Use of Diverse Asset Managers by College and University Endowments, and Related Diversity and Inclusion Practices - Congress members send inquiries to 25 colleges and universities asking for information regarding the participation of women and minority-owned asset management firms in the administration of endowment assets.
  • Pensions & Investments updated its US Endowment Returns Tracker with 2020 data (year ending June 30, 2020).
  • 2020: The year university endowments go green? - Recent developments show universities are thinking more about climate change in their endowments.

View past issues of IEN’s weekly news summary online here.

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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 Hannah Bowen at [email protected].



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