What is sustainability?
There are many ways to define sustainability. We at IEN use this term to reflect practices that meet all people's needs today without compromising either natural habitats or the ability of future generations to thrive. Click to see more detail on the Social Equity and Climate Action elements of IEN's working definition of sustainability.
What are your sustainability goals?
Your institution will need to find consensus about which social, environmental, and structural elements of sustainability are relevant to you and your investments, and create a shared definition. This definition might include racial and gender justice; a regenerative economy; carbon neutrality; or more. The materiality of sustainability considerations to strictly financial performance varies by sector and asset class. However, a broad, comprehensive understanding of what "sustainability" means and the major themes is an important part of the learning process and a prerequisite to building consensus, establishing policy, and implementing sustainable investment strategies.
IEN works to advance intentionally designed endowments through a variety of strategies that will make a significant and critical contribution to creating a healthy, just, and sustainable society. One strategy is for university endowments to align their portfolios with existing frameworks and resources on defining and measuring sustainability:
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - The SDGs provide a framework for understanding key sustainability themes, that has been widely agreed-upon and adopted by businesses, investors, and governments. See below for links to resources related to themes in each of the 17 SDGs, such as climate change, gender, inequality, cities and communities, and responsible production.
- Future Fit Business - The Future-Fit Business Benchmark offers a holistic framing for companies and investors to consider all their social and environmental impacts. It provides a robust scientific definition of sustainability, enabling a strategic approach for achieving sustainability, and it aligns with the SDGs.
- Paris Climate Agreement - The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It is underpinned by 162 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that detail 189 countries’ plans to reduce emissions and enhance their resilience to climate impacts. According to a 2016 working paper by the World Resources Institute, the climate actions communicated in NDCs align with at least 154 of the 169 SDG targets. The climate and sustainable development agendas are integral components to achieve a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
Click on a Sustainable Development Goal below to access reports, articles, videos and other resources by topic:
"Everything that we've done today will need to change pretty significantly over the next five to ten years if we are to achieve what the Paris Accord sets out, which is to limit temperature rises to less than 2 degrees celsius. . . . This will be the most significant economic transition in history. It is a great opportunity to deploy capital, it is a significant risk, and it has to happen very quickly over the next five to ten years. . . . We do need to make sure that we bring back to finance a best practice, a recognition that finance can be a force for good, and that we in the investment community can be leaders in that, and of course I can't think of a better place than academic institutions to be leaders."
- David Blood, Co-founder & Senior Partner, Generation Management, Speaking at the Intentionally Designed Endowment Forum at Loyola University Chicago November 1-2, 2016