Spring 2020 Newsletter

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In the short months since our Winter Newsletter, a pandemic has upended lives and markets. In this edition of our newsletter, we are sharing IEN member views on the challenges and opportunities this crisis presents.

One of the early lessons has been that investing in companies that serve diverse stakeholders and manage risks (including systems-level risks) well can serve investors well even during a crisis. Read more about analyses of the financial performance of sustainable investing - both before and during the current crisis.

Warm regards,

The IEN Team

Member Posts: Perspectives on the Crisis

What does the current crisis mean for the field we have been building? What does it mean for the Higher Education sector? How will it change the investment industry? How will it change our economy, the balance between companies’ stakeholders, and the business models that can succeed after this disruption? How will the current crisis affect our work on climate and social justice? How will this crisis change the way peer networks operate? All of us are full of questions these days. And while we won’t have definitive answers right away, it’s important to start shaping our answers together. In an introductory blog post, Hannah summarizes trends that emerged from several IEN Community Conversations and member calls in March. Read recent member posts, and follow the series here:


Spotlight: Financial Performance of Sustainable Investing 

At the 2020 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit, we released a new report that summarized a growing body of evidence from academics and practitioners showing that sustainable investing strategies, in general, perform as well or better than traditional approaches.  

For the first time, this report provides a collection of 11 real-world cases of college and university endowments implementing sustainable investment strategies and meeting their financial performance targets. 

Read the full report here, and then take a look at a new blog post cataloging the results of recent real-time analyses of sustainable investment strategies’ performance in the current crisis.



If you missed the network’s largest annual event (or want to revisit or share what you learned there), take a moment to watch these recordings from the event and be inspired by the experiences of peers in the field:

Endowment Investing Forum (full playlist)

Main Stage Plenary Sessions (full playlist)

You can also read reflections on the Summit here, as well as a recap of the Higher Education Equitable and Clean Economy Opportunity Zone Workshop which took place at the Summit.



Additional Updates from the Network 

New IEN Members

We are pleased to welcome the College of Charleston FoundationWindSail Capital GroupCenter for Business, Government & Society, Tuck School of Business, DartmouthSecha Capital, and the University of British Columbia to the Network! To learn more about the leadership opportunities and benefits of IEN membership, click here.


IEN Team News

Please join us in thanking IEN’s Spring 2020 interns for their ongoing work in support of the network: Gwladys Ngatchou and Jack Farrell

We are also happy to welcome Julia Maloney to IEN’s year-long Fellowship program. Keep an eye on IEN’s team page for summer interns who will be joining the team later this month!

And in case you missed it, Chris Walker is now leading our new and growing Sustainable Retirements initiative.


IEN Members Connecting In Person and Online

  • In late February, we convened at the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Atlanta. Read reflections on the Summit here, as well as photos and videos on our partner Second Nature’s page. Please share the recorded Endowment Investing Forum panel discussions with peers who are exploring the Intentionally Designed Endowment Roadmap.
  • Earlier this year, we launched a new IEN Member Portal! We have designed this portal to be a starting point for accessing the full benefits of IEN membership - from connecting with other network members through the Member Directory, to accessing tools and resources (including member-only resources), and keeping up to date on network activities, working groups, and communication channels.



Follow the link to view a recording of our most recent webinar:

Register here for our next webinar session: IEN Webinar: Emerging Markets - Impact & ESG during the Coronavirus Pandemic (Wednesday, May 13, 11am EDT)

And please let us know which topics you would most like to hear from members about in this year’s webinar series!


Online Peer Networking

We held four Community Conversations in March of 2020 to gather together and reflect on the impact of the pandemic on our work and communities. Read some reflections on those conversations here.

We will also be hosting a new member orientation Community Conversation on May 27th at 11am EDT - staff of new IEN member organizations (joined within the past 6 months) are invited to register here.


SIILK (Sustainable & Impact Investing Learning and Knowledge) Network

In the past few months, the SIILK Network has:

  • Connected on Monthly Calls: On calls each month during the academic year, students, faculty, staff, and industry practitioners connect to share their experiences around student managed investment funds and sustainable finance curriculum. Watch recent presentations by Arizona State UniversityPortland State UniversityBentley University, or all past recorded presentations here.
  • Continued to Accept Applications for the Next Round of the SIILK Mentorship Program: If you are a student interested in learning more about the sustainable investing field and becoming a mentee, or a sustainable investing professional at an IEN member institution interested in becoming a mentor, you are welcome to participate. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis here.
  • Piloted a Student Corporate Engagement Competition: The Student Corporate Engagement Competition invited student teams to write and present an investment recommendation for a publicly-traded company listed on any major exchange, and include in the investment recommendation a proposed shareholder engagement strategy that aims to improve company financial and sustainability performance. Student teams at Arizona State University, University of California Berkeley, Bryant University, and Yale University participated in the pilot. Learn more about the Competition here.
  • Continued to Add Resources to the SIILK Education Center: The Education Center on the SIILK website highlights resources that have been developed by or shared by members of SIILK. Visit the Education Center to view resources on the field of sustainable and impact investing, as well as databases, reports, and articles on sustainable and impact investing education, including resources on curriculum and student-managed funds.
  • Collected Information on Student-Managed Investment Funds: Does your college or university have a student-managed investment fund and/or sustainable investing focused courses? We would love to have you join the conversations that happen within SIILK. If interested in joining, or to help us ensure our database of student managed investment funds and sustainable investing focused courses is accurate, please fill out this form.

If you are interested in learning more about the above programs or connecting with stakeholders to share best practices and advance the development of sustainably invested student-managed funds and sustainable finance curriculum, please reach out to Nicole at [email protected].


Sustainable Retirements: ESG Options for Retirement Plans

Led by Chris Walker, our Sustainable Retirement initiative held a workshop at our annual Summit on the “why” and the “how” to integrate more high quality ESG options into employee retirement plans, with presenters from Schroders, Natixis, Mercer, the University of British Columbia and the College of Charleston.  We also held the first in a series of webinars on this topic, (recording available here), providing an overview of this topic. The next webinar will be in June focused on Fiduciary Duty. Our survey that is informing initiative this initiative is still open - please take a moment to complete it here. If you are interested in learning more about this project, please reach out to Chris at [email protected].  Supported by Natixis and Schroders


Working Groups

IEN Working Groups meet regularly to advance key strategies in support of the network's goals. Please contact an IEN team member to get involved in a Working Groups in 2020:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group: This group continues to organize calls every 1-2 months to exchange resources and collaborate for action on advancing DEI lens integration in endowment investing practices. The WG is moving forward with developing a Racial Equity Investing Primer and making plans to launch additional activities. If you are interested in participating in this group, please reach out to Kaede at [email protected].
  • Fiduciary Duty & Policy Working Group: The Fiduciary Duty Working Group has outlined a training program for boards of trustees at colleges and universities to help them understand portfolio risk related to two key challenges facing us today - climate change and social inequity - and how this relates to fiduciary duty and to the resilience of the institutions they serve.  The training program will be a collaboration among organizations that support higher education and organizations with expertise in climate risk and ESG investing.  IEN is currently seeking sponsors for the training program. The program would include an online portion as well as virtual training that is responsive to the needs of the board.   If you are interested in sponsoring this work, please reach out to Alice at [email protected].
  • Shareholder Engagement Working Group: This group will resume meeting in June to work together to create solutions to the barriers that prevent colleges and university endowments from being more active shareholders:  people and time resources and investment through commingled funds. In the meantime, we continue to highlight opportunities for investor action around companies’ responsibilities for the health and safety of employees during this pandemic, around pending SEC regulations that limits the rights of shareholders and through voting proxies on a number of environmental, social and governance issues.  Please reach out to Alice at [email protected] if you are interested in participating in this group or learning more about the pending SEC regulations.
  • 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. If you are a trustee and interested in participating in this group, please reach out to Georges at [email protected].


Upcoming Events

IEN Events:

Other Events:

To view more upcoming events, click here.

Featured Resources

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:


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, manage your mailing preferences here.

IEN in the News:

Read more coverage of the network here

Other News:

Read coverage of recent announcements by higher education endowments about their progress aligning their investments with institutional goals:

  • University of Victoria: significantly reducing the carbon footprint of its $225 million short-term investment fund
  • University of Pennsylvania: announced that it does not hold, and would not expect to hold going forward, any direct investments in coal and tar sands 
  • Georgetown University: adopted a new policy on fossil fuel and impact investments that includes continuing to make investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and related areas, freezing new endowment investments in companies or funds whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels, and divesting from fossil fuel companies in their public securities within the next five years and their private investments over the next 10 years.
  • Wesleyan University: plans to be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade 
  • Brown University: shared progress toward divestment - 90% of investments in companies that extract fossil fuels have been sold, the remainder is being liquidated as it becomes possible to do so, and no new investments are being made in this area
  • University of California: reported on progress that UC Investments made in 2019 to further diversity and inclusion as one of the eight pillars of UC Investments’ Framework for Sustainable Investing, which was adopted in 2015, and committed to annual reporting
  • Harvard University: setting a goal to have the endowment reflect “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (read additional details here)
  • University of New Hampshire:joined 26 colleges and universities in signing the IEN and Second Nature Call to Action for Higher Education Leadership which aims to accelerate climate solutions in higher education institutions
  • University of Oxford: has agreed to divest from fossil fuels and commit to a net-zero investment strategy following extensive student-led campaigns and protests
  • American University: has fully divested all of its public fossil fuel investments from the endowment

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

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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