Stanford University is a private university located in Stanford, California with approximately 17,000 students. The Stanford Management Company (SMC) and Board of Trustees oversee the endowment. Stanford is currently one of only six higher education institutions to earn the highest rank in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), due to its significant efforts to integrate social and environmental awareness into its curriculum, operations, and investments.
Since its adoption of a statement on investor responsibility in 1971, Stanford has recognized its responsibility as an investor and has periodically outlined and updated policies to guide its commitment to responsible investment in a contemporary context. The SMC’s Ethical Investment Framework was adopted in 2018 to govern and complement Stanford’s existing statement. According to the framework, investment decisions are guided based on the understanding that businesses are far more likely to endure and generate sustainable returns on investor capital when they behave with due regard for the welfare of their stakeholders and the communities in which they operate. Stanford currently has a Special Committee on Investment Responsibility (SCIR) of the Board of Trustees as well as Investment Responsibility and Stakeholder Relations (IRSR) office to review proposals submitted by the community and function as an ad-hoc, issue-based fact-finding committee responsible for research and campus engagement where needed.
As such, Stanford’s efforts to address environmental, social, and governance issues through investment has manifested in adopting a climate change proxy voting guideline to support resolutions for companies to analyze levels of greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce and/or eliminate them. Stanford has adopted policies that preclude owning specific companies with operations implicated in Sudanese human rights abuses, the tobacco industry, and companies whose principal business is coal mining for electricity.
In 2018, Stanford committed $10 million over a 10-year period to develop an expanded platform of educational and research opportunities for students and faculty with interests in responsible investing and governance.
In June 2020, the Stanford Board of Trustees reported a major reduction in the university’s fossil fuel investments. Less than 1.5% of the university’s endowment is now exposed to the fossil fuel industry and the university’s endowment has no direct holdings in the top 100 oil and gas companies. In addition, the Board of Trustees stated that the university would be accelerating its transition to efficient energy sources in hopes of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Stanford University is a participant or member of the following Initiatives & Commitments:
- AASHE STARS: Yes, Platinum
- ACUPCC: No
- Billion Dollar Green Challenge: No
- CDP: No
- Committee for Investor Responsibility: Yes
- Divestment Goal: Yes, coal only
- INCR: No
- Montreal Carbon Pledge: No
- Sustainable Investment Fund: No
- Sustainable Investment Policy: Yes
- Principles for Responsible Investment: No
Other Sustainable Investing Practices:
- Commitment to at least Net Zero GHG emissions in the endowment by 2050 (June 2020)
- Letter to the university community from Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Raikes on investment responsibility (December 4, 2018)
- Frequently asked questions on investment responsibility
- Statement on Investment Responsibility (Adopted 1971, as amended through 2018)
- Stanford Management Company: Ethical Investment Framework
- Investment Responsibility Stakeholder Relations (IRSR)
- Sustainable Stanford