Winter 2021 Newsletter


As we settle into the new year, we are heartened by the continued commitment of this community to advancing the field of sustainable investing. Just in the last few weeks, statements from Columbia University, BlackRock, and Creighton University reflect the accelerated transformation of our economy.

We invite you to work together as a network this year to ensure that transformation is equitable, corrects past and current injustices, and moves us all to a healthier, resilient place. This quarter’s newsletter focuses mainly on our primary platform for that joint work this year - the Climate Action Pursuit. Please let us know how we can make this process as relevant and valuable as possible for you!

Warm Regards,

The IEN Team

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Spotlight: Climate Action Pursuit

There are just three weeks left to secure your spot before the Climate Action Pursuit kicks off on February 24th!

When you register, you’ll get access to a unique platform of peer support to meet your existing goals - or be inspired to set more ambitious goals.

Take a look at the conversations we’ll be hosting in the Pursuit’s first milestone here, and map out your journey of learning and action on one or more of the Pursuit’s intersecting themes.

We’re also pleased to share a snapshot of the experts who are participating as speakers, facilitators, and conversation catalysts. These leaders in our field want to hear from you - how have you practiced resilience during the pandemic? What is your vision for the years ahead? How can we work together to achieve it?

To choose your sessions during the first Climate Action Pursuit milestone February 24-26, 2021, register today for full access!

Register today!
Updates from the Network
New IEN Members

We are pleased to welcome University of St. Thomas, Impact Shares, University of Richmond, Holden Lee, and Federated Hermes to the Network! To learn more about the leadership opportunities and benefits of IEN membership, click here.

IEN Team News

We are pleased to announce that Gwladys Ngatchou, who has been a powerful contributor to IEN’s work as an intern, joined the team in December as a full-time staff to support our communications! She recently graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst majoring in Communications with a minor in Political Science.

Please also help us welcome IEN’s spring 2021 interns, Nick Angeramo, Keve Bonilla-Gross, and Haley Obermeier. See more about Nick, Keve, and Haley on our Team page.


Please join us for our next webinar:

IEN Members can access the following recent webinars through our member-only archive:

  • How CDP Drives Environmental Action Through Its Investor Signatory Program | January 14, 2021
  • Across the Board: Young People Leading on Climate | January 9, 2021
  • All Investments Affect Racial (In)justice | December 15, 2020

See our full event calendar here, and please let us know which topics you would most like to hear from members about in this year’s webinar series!

Upcoming Events

IEN Events:

How You Can Help Stop the Sixth Mass Extinction. The Importance of Considering Biodiversity Conservation When Constructing Your Portfolio | February 3, 2021 10-11am ET

Climate Action Pursuit - February Milestone | February 24-26, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - June Milestone | June 10-11, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - October Milestone | October 7-8, 2021

Climate Action Pursuit - December Milestone | December 9-10, 2021

Other Events:

GreenBiz 21: The Premier Annual Event For Sustainable Business Leaders | GreenBiz Online Event, Feb 9 - 11, 2021 (Invitation Upon Request)

Washington & Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WOHESC) | Social Enterprises, February 11 - 12, 2021, 11am ET As a Community Partner for the WOHESC our members can use a 30% discount code during registration

Clean200 – 2021 Live Webinar | Corporate Knights & As You Sow, February 18, 7am PST

Ceres 2021 Conference:Transform Tomorrow Today | Ceres, March 22 - 25, Virtual Event

GreenFin 21 | GreenBiz Online Event, April 13 - 14, 2021, (Invitation-only)

IEN's Focus Areas
SIILK (Sustainable & Impact Investing Learning & Knowledge) Network

This winter, SIILK’s focus has been on developing this year’s Student Corporate Engagement Competition and recruiting participants and sponsors. In December, IEN Member Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT presented on their work to students, faculty, and staff -- a recording of the presentation can be viewed here. If interested in learning more about the Competition, additional SIILK programming, or connecting with stakeholders to share best practices and advance the sustainable investing education space, please reach out to Nicole at [email protected].

Sustainable Retirements: ESG Options for Retirement Plans

Watch the recording of our recent webinar on Fiduciary Duty which was postponed from June due to proposed changes by the Department of Labor on the use of ESG in ERISA plans. In September, we joined a coalition of investor groups in sharing an analysis of the comments to that proposed rule, which overwhelmingly showed investor opposition. Since September, we have been holding a free series of small-group virtual meetings between stakeholders interested in advancing Sustainable Retirement conversations within their institutions, and members of our Expert Panel (Natixis, Schroders, Federated Hermes, Gitterman Wealth Management, Pivotal Advisors, Mercer). The Experts Panel is a resource that can: Share their expertise and experience, Address questions, and Provide coaching, resources, and insights on how best to move forward. The focus groups are small informal conversations, under the Chatham House Rule, to learn from peers and experts about issues like - what ESG options are available? How do they perform financially? Are ESG options riskier? What are the relevant issues around Fiduciary Duty? And any other questions you may have. Please reach out to [email protected] if you would be interested in joining a focus group conversation, and/or use this link to receive updates on this work.

Supported by Natixis, Federated Hermes, Gitterman Wealth Management, and Schroders

Net Zero Endowments

IEN’s Net Zero Endowments initiative continues to build momentum, with a series of educational programs and peer-learning opportunities on this topic. Participants of the Climate Action Pursuit will hear from Harvard, the David Rockefeller Fund, and the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance. In December, the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative was launched, showing that more managers are tackling this challenge and preparing to support asset owners in committing to net zero. More asset owners continue to announce commitments, including the $161 billion Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan last week. In the run-up to COP26, we encourage endowments to commit to Net Zero Portfolios. Contact Georges Dyer ([email protected]) to learn more, and join this community to stay up-to-date on news, events and resources to support you / your clients in making and implementing these commitments. Visit the Net Zero Endowments webpage for details and get involved!

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

With the publication of the Investing in Racial Equity: A Primer for College & University Endowments by IEN’s DEI Working Group in August, IEN’s DEI Initiative will focus on convening learning and collaboration opportunities to support investor progress around the Action Steps outlined in the primer. If you are interested in joining this community, learning more about this work, or sponsoring, please reach out to Kaede at [email protected].

Supported by Prime Buchholz and Global Endowment Management

Fiduciary Duty & Policy

The Fiduciary Duty Working Group is bringing fiduciary duty and governance to life in a session at the Climate Action Pursuit as told through the story of the multi-stakeholder effort by Middlebury College to align their investments with their institutional mission. Please join us at the Climate Action Pursuit at 11am EST on Thursday, February 25th to learn more. In other news, the working group is exploring collaboration with the CFA Institute, and working group member Don Trone (aided by Sarah Cleveland) is moving closer to launching a Center for Board Certified Fiduciaries that will be the first of its kind, housed at a university yet to be named. If you are interested in participating in this working group, please reach out to Alice at [email protected].

Shareholder Engagement

After a pilot program to support Warren Wilson College in practicing active ownership, IEN took time to reflect and to design and seek funding for a shareholder engagement program to help more endowments effectively engage companies particularly to advance efforts in creating net zero portfolios and to advance racial justice. We have been connecting with possible collaborators in this work such as ICCR, As You Sow, Thirty Percent Coalition, The Shareholder Commons and Majority Action. Having recently learned that we will receive some grant funding for the project, we look forward to reconvening this working group to move this important program forward. In the meantime, we have continued to notify our members of opportunities for investor action around companies' ESG issues (particularly related to the current racial justice movement and public health crisis), through sign-on letters and commitments. Please reach out to Alice at [email protected] if you are interested in participating in this work.

Trustee Peer Group

Members of the trustee peer group have been providing input on the design of the Climate Action Pursuit, and will be attending the Presidents & Trustee sessions taking place there. If you are a trustee and interested in participating in this group, please reach out to Georges at [email protected].

Featured Resources
Resources from IEN
Other Resources from the Field
In the News
IEN in the News

Demand Grows for Student-Led Impact Investment Funds | Financial Times

Read more coverage of the network here

Recent Announcements About Higher Education Endowments Aligning Their Investments with Institutional Goals
  • Oxford University is pushing ahead with its pledge to divest from fossil fuels with the creation of a specific index in collaboration with asset management giant BlackRock.
  • Columbia University does not hold any direct investments in publicly traded oil and gas companies and has recently formalized this policy of non-investment by revising their investment policy.
  • Lakehead University’s Board of Governors approved a motion that will see the institution divest from its fossil fuel holdings by the end of the University’s current Strategic Plan in 2023.
  • Creighton University announced it plans to phase out all investments in fossil fuels from its $587 million endowment within the next 10 years and target new investments in sustainable energy.

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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