Fall 2021 Newsletter


As we savor the crisp fall air and prepare for winter, we’re marking COP 26 with optimism to accelerate the transition to clean energy while developing new and safe ways to impact our communities and the environment. As we move into this transition, it is clear that now is the time for endowments to make Net Zero Portfolio commitments.

This quarter, we share an updated Sustainable Retirement Guide with two new modules on Fiduciary Duty and an Advocate’s Guide to make it easier for institutions to add ESG funds to their retirement programs and an invitation to take our 2021 member survey to help us assess and improve our collective work.

We also announced that the 2022 annual Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit will be going virtual and we will reconvene in person at the University of Miami in 2023. The exact dates and approved submitted proposals for the virtual Summit will be announced soon so please stay tuned!

Warm regards,

The IEN Team

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Spotlight: Climate Action Pursuit and 2022 Higher Ed Climate Leadership Summit
The December Climate Action Pursuit will be here soon! More than 700 registrants who have been part of the Pursuit since February are all invited to participate in this final milestone. You can review brief summaries of all of the past milestones in the event platform here, and registered participants can log in to view recordings there as well.

You can still register! If you want to join us in December and gain access to the February, June and October session recordings, you can do so here. We’ve spent the last three milestones learning, planning and leading together on climate justice at our institutions, in our communities and across our economy. The December milestone will focus on celebrating our progress during this year’s journey and look to highlight key achievements from this community

The 2022 annual Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, co-hosted by Second Nature and the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN), will be going virtual and we will reconvene in person at the University of Miami in 2023. The exact dates and approved submitted proposals for the virtual Summit will be announced soon so please stay tuned!

Updates from the Network
New IEN Members

We are pleased to welcome V-Square Quantitative Management LLC, Finite Management, LLC, California State University, Fullerton, Acansa Investment Management Group, Monticello Associates, Marc Tannous, American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and Social Venture Circle (SVC), and UC Davis Foundation to the Network! To learn more about the leadership opportunities and benefits of IEN membership, click here.

IEN Team News

This fall, we had the opportunity to work with three fantastic IEN interns: Bella Alvarez, Sydney Gerbel, and Exequiel Morales. They have been a great addition and support to the team through their time with us and shared what they’ve learned in our blog. You’re welcome to learn more about their experience with IEN here.

We‘re actively recruiting a new Membership Director - please review and circulate the job description here.

Recent Webinars

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

Upcoming Events

Please join us for our upcoming IEN events:

Other Events

See our full event calendar here, and please let us know which topics you would most like to hear from members about in this year’s webinar series!

COP26 Underscores the Need for Endowments to Lead on Climate

  • At IEN, we believe that it will take an all-hands-on deck approach to meet the emission reduction targets that were recommitted to at COP26. That is why we convene and support endowments in committing to net zero portfolios, educating students about sustainable investing, and participating in shareholder engagement efforts to get portfolio companies onto decarbonization pathways. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the global financial system must play an essential role in the overall effort to reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. We are strongly encouraged by a number of key developments both during and prior to the start of the COP26 conference, read more on the IEN blog.
IEN's Focus Areas
SIILK (Sustainable & Impact Investing Learning & Knowledge) Network
  • Applications are now open to participate in the 2022 Student Corporate Engagement Competition, which invites students to pitch an investment in a publicly-traded company, and include in that recommendation a shareholder engagement strategy focused on addressing inequality and the climate crisis, as they are systemic risks that threaten a healthy society, and in turn, healthy portfolio returns. Participating students will receive a variety of benefits, including access to mentorship and networking opportunities, free and discounted registration to educational workshops and industry events, presentation opportunities, and multimedia interview opportunities.

    Sign up to compete here.

    We are also looking for sustainable finance professionals to serve as mentors to students participating in this year's Competition. Mentors will guide student teams as they develop their investment recommendations and shareholder engagement strategies. If you are a sustainable investing professional, we want you to volunteer to mentor a student team.

    Sign up to volunteer as a mentor here.

    Lastly, on the SIILK Network's October 2021 call, Jeramy Lund, Managing Director of the University Venture Fund at University of Utah, gave a presentation on the origin and mission of the school's student venture fund, as well as how the fund is organized and managed.

    Watch the presentation here.

Supported by Federated Hermes

Sustainable Retirements: ESG Options for Retirement Plans
  • The Department of Labor announced a policy proposal on October 13th that, when adopted, will allow plan fiduciaries to consider ESG risks when including funds in retirement plans. As this decision will likely spur increased interest in ESG-aligned retirement plans, an Advocates Module geared toward plan participants was added to the Guide to Sustainable Retirements to help them determine what funds are in their DC plans and advocate for the inclusion of ESG funds. In addition, the October milestone of the Climate Action Pursuit included a session focused on moving assets for climate justice, including incorporating ESG funds into retirement plans. Please see here for more information on the Sustainable Retirements Initiative.

Supported by Natixis, Federated Hermes, and Schroders

Net Zero Endowments
  • As a complement to the Net Zero Endowments Initiative, IEN recently surveyed members about their view on divestment -- please contact us if you are interested in seeing the results. In addition, the Net Zero Steering Committee is currently working on publishing a white paper highlighting the intersectional nature of climate issues and racial justice. We’ve also seen a number of exciting commitments to divestment and net-zero portfolios — the University of Toronto recently pledged to divest its $4B endowment from fossil fuel investments and committed to net-zero emissions by 2050; The McKnight Foundation committed to a net zero portfolio; Harvard will no longer invest any of its $42B endowment in fossil fuels; and Boston University, Dartmouth and several others also had similar announcements this fall. We encourage our members and other interested organizations to get involved in this space and make a net zero commitment. Please visit the Net Zero Endowments page for more information and resources.

Supported by Wellington Management, ISS ESG, and Adasina Social Capital

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • IEN’s DEI Initiative brought four climate justice leaders to provide a keynote at the October milestone of the Climate Action Pursuit to illustrate how the problem and the solution are intertwined with our legacies of colonialism and environmental racism, offering a justice-centered path forward in addressing climate change. At the Pursuit, we also hosted a workshop to explore approaches to investment decision making that shift power dynamics to align with grassroots and community priorities. As part of our Racial Equity Investing Learning Series, we invited the network to consider the Investor Case for Addressing Human Rights, laying out why human rights is an essential component of an investor’s sustainable investing strategy. Many of these activities were made possible by the members of IEN’s DEI Working Group that continue to meet quarterly to facilitate learning and collaboration to help the network make progress on DEI. Learn more here about joining this community, participating in joint work, or sponsoring.

Supported by Prime Buchholz and Global Endowment Management

Fiduciary Duty & Policy and Trustee Peer Group
  • We will be combining the Fiduciary Duty & Policy working group and the Trustee Peer Group to form a new Endowment Governance Working Group. The new group will monitor developments in fiduciary duty law and governance best practices; and develop educational offerings for Trustees and Investment Committee members on ESG and mission-aligned investing. Over the past quarter we have monitored the new DOL rule and are currently drafting comments in support of the proposed rule. Contact [email protected] about participating in this new working group.
Shareholder Engagement
  • The 2021 proxy season gave investors the opportunity to weigh in on more than 400 shareholder proposals on topics including climate change, racial justice, executive compensation, political spending and worker representation on boards. A record number of these proposals received majority support from investors. Network member Warren Wilson College, supported by IEN staff, contracted with As You Vote, a new ESG aligned proxy voting service, to contribute to an historic result at General Electric (GE), helping to achieve a 98% vote on meeting Net Zero emissions targets by 2050 and resulting in a commitment from GE to set more aggressive targets to meet that objective. There was an increase in Racial Justice proposals this year, directing companies to assess the effectiveness of the Diversity Equity and inclusion efforts, to release diversity data and to engage a third party to conduct a racial equity audit. WWC helped many proposals related to racial justice get greater than 30% support including at American Express and Union Pacific which received 60% and 81% votes in favor of assessing the effectiveness of its DEI efforts. We also published a thought piece on Paying Attention to CEO Pay: Are You Overcompensating the Executives in Your Endowment? looking at the risks of investing in companies with excessive CEO pay and how fiduciaries can address this issue through shareholder advocacy. Learn more here about participating in this work.
Featured Resources
Resources from IEN

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 from the Field
In the News
IEN in the News

Below is a sampling of recent news articles we've posted in our Weekly News Round-Up, ranging in topics from Sustainable, Impact and ESG Investing, Climate Risk, Science & Regulation, Sustainability in Higher Education, Divestment, Clean Energy, and more. To receive news updates directly in your inbox every Friday, manage your mailing preferences here.

IEN in the News:

Read more coverage of the network here

Recent Announcements About Higher Education Endowments Aligning Their Investments with Institutional Goals

24 asset owners took significant steps this fall towards aligning their investments with institutional sustainability goals. Read coverage of recent announcements by higher education endowments and other asset owners about their progress:

  • Aberdeen University: Aberdeen became the 90th university in the UK to commit to complete divestment from fossil fuels.
  • Boston University: The University’s Board of Trustees voted to immediately end all direct investment in fossil fuels.
  • Cal State System: CSU Chancellor announced that no future investments in fossil fuels will be made by any of the system’s three investment portfolios.
  • California State University Monterey Bay: The University’s investment committee is in the process of analyzing how a potential full divestment from fossil fuels would impact their returns.
  • Dartmouth: The Trustees of Dartmouth have pledged to end all holdings in fossil fuels in addition to making new investments in the clean energy industry.
  • Ford Foundation: Announced no future investment in assets related to the fossil fuel industry.
  • Grand Valley State University: The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at GVSU started an equity endowment for small Michigan-based nonprofits.
  • Harvard University: The Harvard Management Company built on its previous termination of direct investment in fossil fuels, adding that it will not make new investments in the fossil fuel industry in the future. It also pledged to ensure its own operations are “greenhouse gas neutral” by June 30, 2022.
  • Lancaster University: The University has transferred all of its investment portfolios to new ESG-aligned funds.
  • Loyola University Chicago: Loyola has released a new sustainable investment policy, which includes divestment from fossil fuels and integration of ESG considerations.
  • Macalester College: The College pledged to divest all dedicated, publicly traded oil and gas assets, including all shares of Enbridge, Inc. It also adopted a college investment policy that prohibits any new direct investment in oil and gas assets.
  • McKnight Foundation: The Foundation has pledged to convert its $3B endowment to a net-zero portfolio by 2050.
  • Mount Holyoke: Mount Holyoke shared updates on their fossil fuel divestment strategy and carbon neutrality pledge established in March 2021.
  • Selwyn College: The College will divest from all “meaningful” investments in fossil fuels by the end of this year.
  • Trinity College: Trinity’s Investment Committee will be moving its shares out of the MSCI World ex-Fossil Fuel, ex-Tobacco Index and into the ILIM Climate Conscious Fund Index.
  • University of Minnesota: The University will divest all of its funds currently supporting fossil fuel-related companies over the next 5-7 years, largely to the credit of its students’ activism.
  • University of San Diego: Alongside other Catholic universities, University of San Diego is seeking to eliminate its endowment’s exposure to fossil fuels in alignment with Laudato Si’. Laudato Si’, or “Praised Be To You” is a line from The Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis.
  • University of St. Thomas: Over the next five years, the University will divest from public securities of companies involved in the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels. In the next 10 years, it will do the same for private investments alongside a pledge to not create any new investments in fossil fuel companies.
  • University of Toronto: In addition to an announcement of divestment from fossil fuel, the University communicated a goal of a net zero portfolio by 2050. It will also allocate 10 percent of the endowment portfolio to sustainable and low-carbon assets by 2025 – an estimated $400 million worth of investments.
  • University of Virginia: A new Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility has been established at the University to supplement the addition of ESG criteria into the management of their endowment.
  • Vassar College: The Board of Trustees announced the explicit addition of environmental and sustainability concerns to their endowment management guidelines.
  • Virginia Union University: The University’s new endowment policy makes them the first HBCU to have the majority of its portfolio managed by firms with minority owners.
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute: WPI has signed the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment.
  • Sewanee: The University of the South: The Board of Regents has committed to investing $10 million dollars of the University endowment in the Sewanee Village development plan.

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 Gwladys Ngatchou at [email protected].

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

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