Leading Higher-Education Institutional Investors To Guide New Initiative For Net Zero Endowments, Targeting 50 Endowments Over Two Years

Early Steps by Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Penn Now Encouraged for Other Schools


BOSTON, MA (May 6, 2021) - A group of seventeen leaders from higher education endowments, investment consultants, asset managers, and nonprofit partners have joined together as a steering committee to guide a new Net Zero Endowments initiative hosted by the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN). After groundbreaking commitments from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, and Penn over the last year, IEN aims to accelerate the adoption of Net Zero Portfolio commitments to fifty endowments over the next two years.

The new Net Zero Endowments steering committee is at the cutting edge of transforming how college and university endowments invest to keep pace with and drive a just transition to a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

“We are pleased to join this group of thoughtful colleagues as we work to accelerate our collective ability to achieve net-zero investment portfolios, and to do so in a way that addresses long-standing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Kate Murtagh, Managing Director of Sustainable Investing for Harvard Management Company.

A commitment to Net Zero means committing to transition the investment portfolio to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 consistent with a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, taking into account the best available scientific knowledge including the findings of the IPCC, and regularly reporting on progress, including establishing intermediate targets every five years in line with Paris Agreement Article 4.9. 

“Endowments are rethinking how they invest, as the systemic risks of climate change and economic inequality are impacting investment portfolios,” said Tamara Larsen, Head of Mission Aligned Investing at the Outsourced CIO firm, Agility.  “Investments that promote broad, equitable economic opportunity and seek to mitigate the climate crisis can be well-aligned to fiduciary stewardship of college and university endowments. Net Zero Endowments are needed, and should be developed with equity, diversity, and inclusion lenses.”

The Net Zero Endowments initiative will serve as a bridge between higher education endowments and the growing field of net zero investing. IEN members will participate in peer learning and partner with other initiatives for shared resources, events, and actions, including the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance and the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative.  

“We are pleased to be a founding member of the IEN Net Zero Endowments initiative, and look forward to extending our close partnerships with nonprofits - working together to creatively position portfolios in manners that align with their decarbonization goals,” said Andrew Tubman, Director, Endowment & Foundation Strategies at Wellington Management Company LLP. 

The group will also focus on the intersection of climate change and inequality. “A top priority in this work is to ensure that Net Zero commitments are made through a justice and equity lens,” said Georges Dyer, Executive Director of IEN, and coordinator of the new Steering Committee.  “As investors work with the companies they own to provide more value while using less energy and resources, to shift renewable energy and circular business models, we must ensure that people of diverse identities and experience are making investment decisions, and that investments address past environmental racism, avoid extractive practices, and better serve low-income communities and communities of color.” 

Endowments embarking on the journey to net zero portfolios are invited to participate in IEN’s programming, including the Net Zero Endowments initiative and the 2021 Climate Action Pursuit virtual event series.


About the Intentional Endowments Network

The Intentional Endowments Network is a non-profit, peer-learning network advancing intentionally designed endowments – those that seek to enhance financial performance by making investments that advance a low carbon, equitable and regenerative economy. Working closely with leading organizations, the network engages leaders and key stakeholders from higher education, foundations, business, and nonprofits. It provides opportunities for learning and education, peer networking, convening, thought leadership and information exchange around a variety of strategies (e.g., ESG integration, impact investing, and shareholder engagement). www.intentionalendowments.org

ContactMax Karlin, (703) 276-3255 or [email protected]; and Georges Dyer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Intentional Endowments Network, [email protected].

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