Mission & History

Mission

The Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC) works to change the way colleges invest, shifting from investments that fund social and environmental destruction and creating pathways to investments that build community, a clean energy infrastructure, and a just economy.

What We Do

REC builds power by organizing students, alumni, university administrators, and the larger community to challenge and pressure universities to invest their endowments more responsibly. We empower these groups to understand the nuances related to the investment of money and how it plays huge a role in all aspects of society, either exacerbating or improving the environment, working conditions, human rights, and community relationships locally and globally. We are committed to building an inclusive, diverse movement that is representative of the constituencies most affected by corporate and environmental injustice.

History

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 and shift the way their schools invested. These students recognized a need for a source of information and support for student activists looking to organize. 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.

Accomplishments

Since our founding in 2004, REC has become the leading expert on organizing for responsible investing of endowments in higher education. Our work has made proxy voting on environmental and social issues common practice, we have worked with Bard College to limit McDonald’s use of pesticides in its the potato supply chain, we have moved over $5 million into low-income communities and local economic projects through university community investment, and we have supported students at 300 campuses currently running divestment campaigns to move six schools to divest. REC has secured these victories by supporting students to run campaigns on campuses around the country; and by partnering with a wide variety of organizations in the economic justice, climate change, and community development fields. Since 2004, we have additionally:

  • Catalyzed the creation and improvement of 45 Committees on Investor Responsibility; many have filed shareholder resolutions on topics ranging from hydraulic fracturing to corporate political spending disclosures.
  • Won substantial victories on disclosure of financing of mountaintop removal mining at JPMorgan Chase, reduction of pesticide use in McDonald’s supply chain, and limits to political spending.
  • Trained over 3,000 students on organizing and endowments.
  • Been covered in publications including The New York Times, Forbes, Huffington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Good Magazine, Dow Jones, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and Waging Nonviolence.

How does REC support students?

Our staff is committed to working with students by:

  • Visiting schools to present about responsible investment, help engage with decision-makers, and brainstorm strategy with individual campaigns
  • Providing information, technical assistance, and connections to ally organizations and student activist networks
  • Facilitating or assisting in conversations between students and administrators
  • Coordinating joint actions between campuses and other student activists
  • Connecting students with responsible investment professionals
  • Proposing edits to proposals, letters, and other documents 
  • Providing access to template documents based on successes at other schools
  • Hosting annual conferences and organizing retreats with presentations and workshops led by students and professionals in the movement around the country
  • Working with students after graduation to keep them engaged with endowment activism

REC’s Founders

REC was founded by five visionary students: Morgan Simon, Lillie Ris, Ryan Burg, Gretchen Collazo, and Mark Orlowski. These students held the common belief that they could leverage their college endowments to create positive social change.

The founding five came from a variety of different backgrounds and have since all become leaders in their fields. Morgan, our Founding Executive Director, who led successful shareholder resolutions at Swarthmore College, currently leads transformfinance.org and is an active impact investor. 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 REC, they have continued to work towards their vision of social and economic justice.

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Latest from the blog

Feb 23, 2015
On Friday, February 13th, REC got to host the National Private Prison Divestment Campaign steering committee at our downtown Brooklyn office. Along with our dear friends at Enlace, we were honored to share our space with folks from Grassroots Leadership, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance,...
Feb 13, 2015
February 13, 2015 Northampton, MA -  30 singing students flooded into Smith College President Kathleen McCartney’s office today to deliver a Valentine’s Day card signed by over 100 members of the student body to demand the college divest from fossil fuels. Divest Smith College was joined by the a capella group...
Feb 13, 2015
  Today, Responsible Endowments Coalition is proud to be part of the first-ever Global Divestment Day of Action.  After less than four years, campaigns around the world are now engaging in simultaneous creative action to pressure their colleges, churches, city and state pension funds, and institutions to move their money...

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