Middlebury College’s Sustainable Investments Initiative

by Olivia Grugan, Northeast Student Organizer



In May 2010, Middlebury College announced that it has designated a portion of the endowment to be actively invested in environmentally responsible companies. “The Sustainable Investments Initiative” was created with $4 million from Middlebury and an additional $35-70 million from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

For Middlebury, the Initiative reflects an effort to have the college’s investment strategies be consistent with its institutional values. The college’s mission statement refers to a commitment to integrate “environmental stewardship” in both curriculum and practices. Though the school’s on-campus efforts—carbon neutrality by 2016, biomass plant, recycling center, organic garden—have gained it a national reputation for environmental responsibility, as of the start of 2010, the endowment had not yet incorporated these values.

The Sustainable Investments Initiative represents a significant shift in college’s investment strategy.  For the first time in the college’s history, rather than judging the success of an investment exclusively by its financial performance, this fund will be monitored for environmental impact as well.  This shift is inspired by a hope that investing in environmentally sustainable initiatives will eventually become a standard investment practice.  Some predict that investing this way in the future will actually yield higher returns as environmental issues continue to become more salient across the globe.

In the official press release for the fund, Middlebury College’s President Ron Liebowitz is quoted, “We are pleased to be involved in this new initiative. We’re excited at the prospect of an initiative whose performance can further our educational mission while providing social and environmental value.”

While the creation of the fund is certainly a significant first step, there are still many questions left unanswered.  What kind of criteria should be used to evaluate companies in the fund, what the returns from the fund will be spent on, and how the fund will be monitored are just a few of these.

The students at Middlebury College hope that this Initiative will serve as a model for the rest of the endowment, providing an opportunity to test this investment strategy.  It is also their hope that this fund will serve as inspiration to other education institutions to evaluate how their own values are reflected in their endowment investments.

For the Responsible Endowments Coalition, this fund hopefully represents the beginning of a trend—school communities coming together to determine the values they hold in common and then applying those a their endowment, a vehicle for change with incredible amounts of untapped potential.

Keep in touch

Sign up to receive our updates and get access to all features of this website. Sign in with:

Latest from the blog

Sep 01, 2016
Subscribe to REC's quarterly newsletter today! We are thrilled to share updates on a number of exciting events, projects, and campaigns at REC!   This past summer, REC was able to launch its International Solidarity Program (ISP) to the Philippines with fossil fuel divestment organizers from across the country. Join...
Aug 31, 2016
  Notes on the Recent Department of Justice Decision To Move Not Renew Private Prison Contracts Photo:  (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) The Department of Justice announced on August 18 that it will begin transitioning away from federally contracted private prisons, essentially transitioning around 22,000 individuals currently caged in 13 for-profit facilities to...
Aug 29, 2016
Are you searching for a profession that aligns your personal values with your desire for a career in finance?   Do you feel you need help identifying what roles exist in the impact investing industry and how to get your foot in the door? We are happy to share that our partners from The SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing are...

Sponsors

Partners

Partners

Partners