Sustainable Retirements Initiative 

IEN’s Sustainable Retirements Initiative supports institutions in ensuring retirement options take material ESG factors into consideration.  

The approximately 4,500 colleges and universities in the US alone represent a tremendous pool of retirement assets - totaling over $900 billion - that must be safeguarded from sustainability risks. 

Many colleges and universities are working to align their education, research, and operations with the Sustainable Development Goals. While many have taken steps to integrate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors into their endowment investment decision-making, there’s a tremendous opportunity for institutions to provide sustainable investment options for a vital constituency- their own employees.

Background & Scope

The initiative was launched in 2019 through an initial phase of design, formation, research and engagement. It is designed to engage a broad network of universities and other nonprofit institutions to help fiduciaries ensure they are considering all material, pecuniary, ESG investment factors in fund selection for defined contribution (DC) 403b plans; as well as support defined benefit (DB) plans in effectively doing the same. 

This initiative is modeled after a similar project led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for corporate retirement plans: Aligning Retirement Assets with Corporate Sustainability Commitments (ARA). The ARA brought together leading asset management firms and financial advisors with WBCSD member companies to identify the barriers and the ways in which to address them so that they can better align their retirement plans with their sustainability commitments.  


Participation is open to interested parties from all colleges, universities, and other nonprofits – including trustees and investment committee members, CFOs, HR professionals and other administrators, faculty and staff interested in the impact of their retirement funds.

There is no cost or obligation for representatives from nonprofit institutions to participate.

Leading asset management firms are providing expertise, guidance, and financial support of this initiative.

The Expert Council, made up of representatives from IEN, participating colleges and universities, and supporting asset managers provide strategic input and help steer the direction of the initiative.

Please reach out to [email protected] if you would be interested in joining the initiative, and/or use this link to receive updates on this work.


The initiative will develop resources and toolkits, engage participants, build awareness, and offer educational programming for stakeholders.

Outcomes will include a landscape study of the sector including barriers and opportunities for providing more ESG investing options to beneficiaries; a Toolkit for colleges and universities for making progress in this area; a network of interested parties involved in these process; and a set of recommendations for future research and activities to advance this work further.

Guide to Sustainable Retirements

  • Guide to Sustainable Retirements (June 2021) - practical information relevant to plan sponsors, human resources and finance officers and personnel, advocates, employees, investment advisors, legal scholars, and others to address misconceptions related to the use of ESG funds in retirement plans.

Webinars & Presentations - Integrating Sustainable Investment Options into Higher Ed Retirement Plans


Expert Council:

Adam Polacek, Managing Director, TIAA

Catie O'Connell, Vice President, Natixis Investment Managers

Jennifer Manser, Head of Corporate Communications, North America & Head of Intermediary Marketing, US, Schroders

Dr. Erica Frank, Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia and founder, nextGenU

Michael Rhim, Principal, PRM Consulting Group

Amrita Sareen-Tak, Senior Advisor, Intentional Endowments Network

Deb Boyden, Head of US Defined Contribution, Schroders

Marina Severinovsky, Head of Sustainability, North America, Schroders

Mike Fiorio, Trustee, Northland College

Jeff Gitterman, Co-founding Partner, Gitterman Wealth Management

Erik Gross, Associate Vice President, UNH Foundation

Tiffany Mcghee, CEO and CIO, Pivotal Advisors

Jeff Mindlin, Vice President, and Chief Investment Officer, ASU Enterprise Partners

Chris Walker, Senior Advisor, Intentional Endowments Network

Georges Dyer, Executive Director, Intentional Endowments Network 



For more resources related to sustainable investing options in higher education retirement plans visit the Retirement Resources page in IEN's resource library. 


Supporting Partners

This initiative is made possible by supporting partners:






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