The Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC) works to build and unify the college and university-based responsible investment movement, both by educating and empowering a diverse network of individuals to act on their campuses, and by fostering a national network for collective action. We empower young people to defend human rights and the environment while making both corporations and universities accountable to global stakeholders. Our goal is to foster social and environmental change by making responsible investment common practice amongst colleges and universities, and to support the next generation of activists with a new and powerful toolkit.
What We Do
“It is amazing to me how my participation in Grinnell’s SRI club has impacted my life decisions and made me aware of the activist power of money. It is what makes me passionate about low-income asset-building work.”
–Kelly Bosworth, Grinnell College ’10
REC fosters social and environmental justice by transforming the way universities invest. We empower students, administrators, trustees, and alumni to help their institutions of higher education invest more responsibly. We provide university stakeholders with the tools they need to integrate environmental, social, and governance issues into university investment policies through shareholder engagement, community investment and a broader understanding of financial analysis. By supporting universities once these policies are implemented, we ensure that “responsible investment policies” translate to real-world environmental and social justice.
The Responsible Endowments Coalition was founded in 2004 by student activists from Barnard College, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College and Williams College who were interested in using their schools’ endowments to positively change corporations. These students recognized a need for a source of information and support for student activists regarding responsible investment. They hoped to encourage new campaigns that would ultimately change the way universities consider the social and environmental impacts of their investments. Within a few months, the founders assembled a coalition of 40 schools with combined endowments of more than 102 billion dollars.
Led by this group of students, REC received its tax-exempt status as a non-profit corporation in September of 2005 and received its first major grant in March of 2007 from the Panta Rhea Foundation. With this support and that of other funders, REC has made significant progress in making responsible investment an important issue on college and university campuses.
As of 2010 the coalition has helped to catalyze the formation and improvement of 40 Committees on Investor Responsibility (CIR) which have the responsibility of overseeing the social and environmental impacts of their endowment and voting on corporate proxy resolutions (resolutions shareholders propose to corporate boards, often to increase their sustainability and social and environmental responsibility) and engaging with corporations that the university holds stock in. Since it’s inception REC has worked with over 100 institutions of higher education, and our coalition includes approximately 100 active schools. Currently 7 of the top 10 universities and 8 of the top 10 liberal arts colleges in the country, based on US News and World Report, have active CIRs.
The Responsible Endowments Coalition was founded by five visionary students: Morgan Simon, from Swarthmore College, Lillie Ris, from Duke University, Ryan Burg from the University of Pennsylvania, Gretchen Collazo from Barnard College, and Mark Orlowski at Williams College. These students held the common belief that they could leverage their college endowments to create positive social change.
These five students came from a variety of different backgrounds and have since all become leaders in their fields. Morgan, our Founding Executive Director, who led shareholder successful resolutions at Swarthmore College leads Toniic, and Impact Investor Network. Lillie is a student in international relations at Tufts. Ryan Burg is a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia. Gretchen is a lawyer with expertise in finance and a continued interest in student engagement in responsible finance. Mark went on to found and continues to run the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a Cambridge-based organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in higher education.
From when they met and decided to start the Responsible Endowments Coalition they have continued to work towards their vision of social and economic justice, through their work, their other activities, and their continued involvement in REC.