26.4 Billion Higher Education Endowment Dollars Assessed and Rated by New Framework for Sustainable and Impact Investing

The Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) announces the positive results of a pilot to test a new assessment, rating, and benchmarking framework that enables endowments to earn recognition for their commitment to sustainable and impact investing - the Endowment Impact Benchmark (EIB). The benchmark is now open to all endowments and foundations.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS (April 18, 2024) As the global impact investing market is projected to reach $4.5 trillion by the end of 2030, new impact measurement tools are required. The IEN announced today the launch of a new Endowment Impact Benchmark (EIB), designed specifically for institutional asset owners to accelerate sustainable and impact investing progress.

“The benchmark is a powerful tool for transforming impact investing now and into the future,” said Georges Dyer, Executive Director of The Intentional Endowments Network.  “It offers the opportunity to shift norms, not just among endowments and foundations, but also in the financial industry at large. It finally allows these investors to get credit for walking the walk, affording unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability, and the ability to benchmark against peers and increase the ambition level for aligning investments with positive impact.”

In total, five leading endowments representing public and private colleges and universities, with assets under management ranging from $50 million to over $20 billion, showcased their pioneering institutional leadership, by piloting the Endowment Impact Benchmark:

  • Arizona State University Foundation
  • California State University Foundation
  • Lewis & Clark College
  • University of California
  • University of Toronto

The pilot was immensely successful. Participating endowments expressed that they found the standard to have integrity, the verification process to be effective (and not overly burdensome to participate in), and the resulting feedback and recommendations to be of great value. All endowments that participated in the pilot were awarded a rating of Participant, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The results can be viewed in this report.

“Participation in the pilot of the Endowment Impact Benchmark was a valuable experience for the California State University Foundation.  It allowed us to identify areas where we are a leader in setting best practices nationally as well as opportunities for future growth,” said Aaron Moore, CFO of the California State University Foundation. “ The opportunity to provide in-depth feedback as the EIB was being developed was particularly rewarding as we believe this will be an important industry benchmarking tool going forward." 

“Earning a Platinum rating, the highest of any of the institutions participating in the Endowment Impact Benchmark pilot program, is a gratifying validation of Lewis & Clark College’s dedication to sustainability and principled action in our investing approach,” said Andrea Dooley, Lewis & Clark College's Chief Financial Officer and VP of Operations. “We were early to adopt a divestment policy and continue to build on that commitment through our Net Zero strategy, which targets real-world impact. We are grateful to the Intentional Endowment Network for spearheading this pilot program and for the opportunity to be recognized as a leader in sustainable investing."

The Endowment Impact Benchmark accelerates the action of institutional asset owners across the investment value chain and reduces social and environmental harm, by providing a mechanism for endowments to report on, and get credit for, their positive activities. Specifically, participation in the EIB offers unique benefits where participants will:

  • Manage Risk and Return: Hone investment strategies to deliver reduced risk, and potentially enhanced returns.
  • Evaluate Performance: Learn where they are on their sustainable investing journey, relative to best-practices.
  • Accelerate Progress: Receive high-value feedback (through a third party verifier) and recommendations, on improving sustainable investing policies.
  • Measure Change: Benchmark their progress over time, see their progress in comparison with peers, and access aggregated data of participating endowments.
  • Drive Transparency: Tool allows greater reporting transparency within participants’ own organizations, and as part of the broader impact investing community.
  • Gain Recognition: Participants, based on their progress, earn a rating of Participant, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. 
    • Participants also have the option to participate anonymously to realize the benefits of the benchmarking and advisory feedback, without being required to make their participation or rating public.

IEN has 15 spots available for endowments and foundations to participate in the second EIB cohort in 2024.

The 2023 Pilot was funded and made possible by The Tipping Point Fund on Impact Investing and The Sorenson Impact Foundation.

The EIB results are verified by an independent third party, Blue Mark.

About the Intentional Endowments Network:

The Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) supports higher education institutions to adopt investment strategies that create an equitable, low-carbon, and regenerative economy. IEN connects endowments, asset managers, investment consultants, nonprofit partners, and individuals, to advance the field of mission-aligned, sustainable investing. IEN is housed at the Crane Institute of Sustainability (“Crane”), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Learn more at www.intentionalendowments.org


About BlueMark:

BlueMark is a leading provider of impact verification services for investors and companies. Founded in 2020, BlueMark's mission is to "strengthen trust in impact investing." BlueMark's verification methodologies draw on a range of industry standards, frameworks, and regulations, including the Impact Management Project, the Operating Principles for Impact Management, the Principles for Responsible Investment, SDG Impact, and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation. Learn more at www.bluemark.co 



Georges Dyer, Co-founder & Executive Director, Intentional Endowments Network & The Crane Institute of Sustainability

[email protected]

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