RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


The New School Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility Calls for Mandatory Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Monday, October 15th -- The New School’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) today submitted a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling for disclosure of political spending by public corporations. The ACIR is a body of trustees, faculty, staff and students of The New School charged with incorporating consideration of social, environmental, and corporate governance issues into the management of The New School's endowment investments. The ACIR’s letter to the SEC is the first from a university body in support of Petition 4-637, which urges the SEC to use its rule-making authority to mandate disclosure of corporate campaign financing.

Following the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, political campaigns have been flooded by soft money of ambiguous origin. Terra Lawson-Remer, faculty member and chair of the ACIR states that, "it has become increasingly clear that non-transparent and unaccountable corporate financing of political campaigns is corroding our democracy.” The New School ACIR is urging the SEC to mandate the disclosure of material corporate political spending, in order to facilitate market transparency, assist shareholders in monitoring the spending practices of the corporations they own, provide the information necessary for universities to invest prudently and in line with their missions, and illuminate the activities of corporations in the elections that govern this nation.

The ACIR of The New School has prioritized this issue as it believes that American universities, who collectively hold over $400 billion in their endowments, have a special responsibility to ensure that their investments align with the ethos of the overall institution. Izza Aftab, student representative on the ACIR and a graduate student in economics, noted that, “Universities play the dual role of investors and educators in a dynamic environment. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that universities call for transparency in corporate political spending in order to set standards for the students of today, who are the leaders of tomorrow.” Non-transparency, and the corresponding failures of weak accountability and poor governance, undermines the values and practices of educational institutions.  These concerns are of particular concern at The New School, given its long history of progressive social action and critical thought.

You can read the letter on the SEC website here.
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Ithaca College Students Push Trustees to Abandon Fossil Fuels

Students demonstrating
Twice a year, Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees meets to discuss the vision and future of the institution.

At its fall meeting Wednesday, the board will be greeted by dozens of Ithaca College students who plan to urge the college to divest its endowments from the fossil fuel industry and invest in clean energy companies.

The campus group Environmental Leadership and Actions Network (ELAN) is behind the demonstration, which will be held outside the Ithaca College Campus Center at 5:30.

ELAN member Allison Currier says she and other students plan to show the Board of Trustees that divestment from environmentally irresponsible businesses is the biggest issue facing the institution.

Read the whole article on WHCU - Cayuga Radio Network, which also aired a piece on the campaign. More info on the campaign can be found at www.divestic.com.
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FT: Industry players slow to act on climate issues

Climate change is of course one of the biggest issues of our generation. Trillions of dollars of capital will need to go towards changing the way we consume energy --through energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy. Yet all kinds of investors, especially major institutions, are doing little to take their money out of the old economy of fossil fuels that causes climate change and invest it into the future. Many of them aren't even thinking about how to do this. This piece in the Financial Times (free login may be required) describes:
Many people in the asset management industry are convinced that climate change is caused by human actions, but few are actually managing money in line with that belief.

A new initiative from Australia, the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, has so far failed to gather support for its suggestion that asset owners such as pension funds and endowments should be transparent on what they are doing about climate change.

Read the whole article on the FT website.

 
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Boston REC Retreat

Greetings RECers!

This November 10th and 11th we'll be hosting a retreat in Boston, MA.  The purpose of this retreat is to train folks who are interested in campaign building.  This is a unique opportunity to better your organizing skills while also making connections with organizers from colleges around the country (not to mention enjoy the fabulous city of Boston!).  We'll begin by developing a shared vision for the weekend, we'll talk some about investing and endowments, do some trainings, and spend a lot of time working on campaign planning.  Of course we'll end with a group debrief to recap what we've learned and what we've taught, and to ensure everyone feels good about the weekend.  Basically, it's gonna be rad.

We're looking for ideally 1-2 representatives to come from each campus.  More reps will be accepted on the basis of capacity, but the maximum total attendance for the retreat is thirty people.  Transportation and housing are not provided, but we urge interested students to talk to their student governments or other campus institutions about funding for this transformative experience.  Some exceptions may apply- shoot us an email if you're in a tight spot.

The form to attend the retreat can be found HERE



 

photo credit: Werner Kunz via photopin cc
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T-Shirt Design Contest

 

ATTENTION GRAPHIC DESIGN TYPES!




Responsible Endowments Coalition is steadily growing, which is really great news!  And it’s thanks to all the hard work that students around the country are doing to organize on their campuses.  With all this growing popularity, we need to maintain visibility and allow students to highlight the work that they’re doing in a recognizable way.  That’s why REC is launching a new campaign: A T-Shirt design contest!  Here’s the deal…+ Designs should clearly feature the REC logo+ Themes can include (but are not limited to)

  • Transparency

  • Student Power

  • Responsible/ Ethical Investing


+ Bonus points for a bright color shirt base and unique designs

If your design is selected, you will receive up to five of the newly printed t-shirts for your organization on your campus, and be featured on our website!

Submit your design in JPEG format by 8:00pm EST on October 15th, 2012.  If your design is selected you will be asked to submit a high resolution image file.

Send designs to:  info@endowmentethics.org


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Future of Higher Education Endowments Conference

November 9th, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA



The Future of Higher Education Endowments
Conversations about Responsible Investing and Sustainability


Universities collectively hold more than $400 billion in their endowments. While there are similarities between the 800-plus institutions, each school has its own unique set of circumstances. Some schools manage their investments in-house, some use outside managers, and many use consultants to provide advice on a wide variety of investment policies and practices.  Investment choices can also be influenced by a school’s mission.  Money can be invested in a variety of asset classes, such as real estate, private equity vehicles and community institutions, in addition to stocks or bonds issued by publicly traded companies.

Endowments provide a substantial portion of many schools’ budgets and wise management of these funds is essential for ensuring the future of colleges and universities. Increasingly, students, alumni, and communities are asking that endowment managers practice responsible investment and take more robust action to ensure their investments encourage environmental and social sustainability. Considering these factors also can mitigate investment risks that often are not taken into account in traditional investment management, which why a growing number of large institutional investors are taking action, dramatically changing options in the investment world.

Join the Initiative for Responsible Investment, a project of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, and the Responsible Endowments Coalition, for this one-day gathering where we will explore different options for the investing of endowments, and related transparency and accountability issues relevant for campus communities. This space will bring together a small group of highly knowledgeable students, administrators, faculty, and trustees, to discuss, in an open and intellectual way, their thoughts and desires for how endowments can change while continuing to meet their fiduciary duty and performance expectations, limit risk, and incorporate the values of the college into the investment process.

More information available soon.

This conference is limited to administrators, trustees, faculty, members of Committees on Investor Responsibility, and a limited number of other students.

To register contact Katie Grace at the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Katie_Grace@hks.harvard.edu. Directions upon registration.
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2013 Summer Organizing Retreats


"I attended REC's Summer Organizing Institute in 2009 and it was truly inspiring! ...  I met a bunch of smart, fun students from other campuses, learned about the initiatives they were undertaking, and applied their ideas and tactics to my school's campaign.  The skills I learned at the Summer Organizing Institute have been integral to my organizing and I strongly recommend it for any student that also wants to create change on their campus." Mary Schellentrager, American University '10


About REC Summer Organizing Retreats


How would you change the world with one million dollars? What about $10 million, $100 million, or $1 billion? Students across the country are standing up to corporate power and demanding control over their universities' money!

Universities, as major institutional investors, are failing their communities by supporting the financial status quo in higher ed: maximizing profit over all social or environmental considerations; choosing high-risk, high-reward dealings; investing in highly complex financial instruments with little transparency; banking with Wall Street, instead of equally sound local community institutions; and choosing to not engage or influence the corporations in which they’re investing.

Youth are getting together and piece-by-piece, campaign-by-campaign, building an endowment movement. We invite you to join other students from around the country for a week-long training retreat to develop your endowment knowledge and share strategies from across the movement! Our summer program is perfect for someone new to the responsible investment movement in higher education, or for someone looking to develop a strong campaign plan for next year. There is no previous experience or knowledge required.

What will be covered?


We will be discussing a number of subjects relevant to today’s student leaders, including:

  • Confronting corporate power: corporations and universities

  • How to understand your endowment and the responsible investment strategies that can develop alternative economies

  • How to be an effective student leader: recruiting, engaging, and organizing your campus

  • Analyzing success stories! How has responsible investment impacted workers’ rights; environmental justice issues such as climate change, hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop removal coal mining; corporate contributions and our political system; LGBTQ nondiscrimination; poverty in our local communities; and much more.

Who should apply?


If you have a passion for social justice and are prepared for an intensive and intimate experience, you have everything you need. The goal of this training is to provide students with all of the knowledge they would need to create change at their university from the ground up. No previous knowledge or experience in finance, organizing, or activism is required.

Apply Now


Northeast Summer Organizing Retreat


Where: Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center, Lakona Harbor, NJ. Within two hours of NYC and Philadelphia by car, and also fully accessible to both cities by public transit
When: Sunday evening -- Saturday morning, July 28 -- August 3, 2013


 

West Coast Summer Organizing Retreat


Where: Ben Lomond Quaker Center, Ben Lomond, CA. Less than 2 hours south of San Francisco by car, and also accessible by public transit.


When: Saturday evening -- Friday morning, August 17 -- 23, 2013



Cost:


The suggested tuition -- including food, housing, and staff time for the entire week -- varies depending on the number of attendees from your school:
• If you are the only attendee from your school: $300/person
• If you are one of 2 attendees from your school: $210/person
• If you are one of 3 attendees from your school: $160/person

However, we recognize that not everyone is in a position to pay this much or raise this much money. We hope to work with each attendee to pay on a sliding scale whatever they may be able to. Between REC's scholarship funding and your own fundraising abilities we are committed to making sure that all who wish to attend will be able to. Full and partial scholarships are available and we will also have travel funding available for those who are unable to support their travel. Let's work together to figure it out!

Fundraising:


Let us help you find funding! Check out our Fundraising Guide for Students (.doc) to get started on proven strategies to raise money for your summer plans. Email us with questions or for support with fundraising or on the application process.

Apply Now


Questions?


Email us at organize@endowmentethics.org and we'll answer all of your questions. We look forward to meeting you!

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New Video: The Power of Truth Changes Things

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Wesleyan Leads the way with $500,000 investment in local communities!

From the Wesleyan University Committee on Investor Responsibility 

MIDDLETOWN, CT - Wesleyan University has transferred $500,000 into banks in Middletown and Bridgeport, CT, becoming one of the first universities in the nation to adopt investment practices designed to support underserved communities.

The university has moved $250,000 into both Liberty Bank (Middletown, CT) and the Community’s Bank (Bridgeport, CT), which were chosen by the Wesleyan Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR) as the two banks near Wesleyan most committed to serving disadvantaged communities. Wesleyan’s initial investment is one of the largest among the very small group of universities nationwide that have made similar investments. The CIR, in coordination with the Wesleyan Finance Office, hopes to expand upon these initial investments in the future.

Community investment is the fastest growing area of socially responsible investment in the United States. Over the past three years, community investment has grown from $25 billion to $41.7 billion in assets.

Liberty Bank was chosen based on its consistent and strong support for organizations in the surrounding community where many Wesleyan students volunteer. Since 1997 the Liberty Bank Foundation has provided nearly $6 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, such as the Green Street Arts Center, in its service area. In 2011 it won the Robert Haller Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service. This is awarded annually by the Connecticut Commission on Children to an individual or organization that distinguishes itself through its support for the education and well-being of children in the state.

An investment was made in the Community’s Bank based upon its social mission. It is the only bank in Connecticut that is minority owned and is certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution. The Community Bank earned perfect scores on both metrics used by the National Community Investment Fund Social Performance Metrics Database, giving it by far the highest ratings in Connecticut.[1]

The CIR hopes that Wesleyan’s initial investment in Liberty Bank and the Community’s Bank will be the start of an ongoing relationship that will continue into the coming years and possibly expand in the future.

[1] http://www.ncif.org/index.php/CDBIindustry/CDFIs/
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Campus Updates, Spring 2012

Victories for transparency have taken place at Colby College in Maine and at the University of North Florida! At Colby, pressure from the Occupy Colby student movement has opened up Colby’s direct holdings to the community, while at UNF, their Values Integration Task Force has recommended the implementation of endowment transparency measures as a way of aligning the school’s values with its activities. Bravo to both institutions on their leadership!

The campaign for divestment from coal and other fossil fuels continues. Our friends at the Sierra Student Coalition at UNC--Chapel Hill, continue their campaign: The Daily Tar Heel stopped short of outright endorsement, but rallied behind the students calling for more of a say in creating responsible investment at their school. Campaigns at Earlham, the University of Illinois -- Urbana Champaign, and a growing number of campuses across the country are moving forward, too, in this exciting new chapter of real sustainability and environmental justice in higher ed. At Swarthmore College, Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s fossil fuel divestment campaign continues to get great press:

At Harvard University, students have been working on a responsible investment campaign that has been gaining national attention! Check out some of their awesome press coverage here:

Coalition for a Conflict-Free Duke has been petitioning for proxy-voting rights for shareholder resolutions in order to provide a space for the university to stop the use of conflict minerals within companies that Duke invests in.

At the end of April, Loyola University of Chicago Shareholder Advocacy Committee hosted a webinar discussing their Shareholder Engagement Process with REC. Bravo to LUC for their leadership in showing us that schools can stand up and fight for their values!

Students from the Socially Responsible Investment Club at Middlebury College gave a presentation accompanied by a petition with over 1,000 student signatures in support of socially responsible investments and transparency within the endowment to the President of the College. If approved, they will present to the Board of Trustees!

The Princeton Coalition for Endowment Responsibility is currently asking its peers to vote for the USG referendum, recommending Princeton’s $17.1 billion endowment be invested in a socially responsible manner.

The University of Chicago’s Chicago Maroon, meanwhile, has formally endorsed the creation of a socially responsible investing committee just last week, one of the biggest steps forward in an ongoing campaign for responsible investment which will soon be entering its fourth year. UChicago is unique in the nation for being the birthplace of modern orthodox free-market economics.

Warren Wilson College students are finishing up a courageous semester of working on getting their school, an environmental leader, to break up with Bank of America, a.k.a. the ‘Bank of Coal’. Check out their Facebook page here and share with Warren Wilson alums.

There’s always much more going on than what we’re able to keep track of in Campus Updates. But if you know of something you’d like to share, get in touch with us -- we’d be more than happy to share with the world!
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