Since first I was my mother's daughter
And you can't just take my dreams away – not with me watching.
You may drive a big machine
But I was born a great big woman
And you can't just take my dreams away – not with me fighting!
--Holly Near, Mountain Song
Mountaintop removal (MTR) is an incredibly destructive process that clearcuts forests, decimates mountains, and ruins ecosystems. Communities around MTR sites have experienced severe health consequences from the processes' waste materials - toxic metals and chemicals that coal companies dump into surrounding streambeds. People in these areas experience high flood risks, have lost access to clean and safe drinking water, and have astonishingly high rates of lung cancer, chronic heart, lung, and kidney diseases, and even death. For more information on how companies extract coal from thin seams in the mountains, and how MTR destroys communities and ecosystems, check out Mountain Justice’s explanation of the process.
There’s no question that mountaintop removal is bad for the environment, contributing 25-30% of greenhouse gas emissions each year despite providing only 7% of the United States’ coal. Surface mining has leveled 7% of all Appalachian forests since 1992. Proponents of mountaintop removal will argue that it creates jobs and generates revenue for low-income communities. This claim is true, as investigated in a 2009 report by West Virginia University. The researchers found that the coal industry generates $8 billion per year for Appalachia. However, the estimated cost of deaths attributed to MTR mining totals $42 billion per year, which outweighs the economic benefit five times over. And this is only the cost of deaths, not accounting for cancers and other diseases caused by the process.
The Role of the US Government in MTR
President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has the power to end this destructive process but refuses to take a tough stand against mountaintop removal, preferring to try to make the process more environmentally friendly. On April 1, the EPA announced it would strengthen environmental permitting requirements for MTR, clarify how the agency uses the Clean Water Act to reduce water pollution and the resultant human health impacts, and increase transparency in the process of granting mining permits. This is a step in the right direction, but the EPA’s focus on making surface mining safer is problematic in its impossibility. The MTR process inherently violates the Clean Water Act and will continue to be devastating to people and communities even if some aspects of it are changed. The Obama Administration must start caring about Appalachian communities more than corporate campaign donations. This priority shift would surely motivate the EPA to bring an end to the practice of mountaintop removal altogether.
The Corporate Offenders Who Engage in MTR
Massey Energy is the largest producer of coal in Appalachia, having extracted more than 21 million tons from mountains in 2008. They violated the Clean Water Act over 4,500 times (environmental activists estimate closer to 12,000) between 2000 and 2006 by dumping toxic sediment from their 12 surface mines into rivers. The EPA filed suit against Massey and they were ultimately fined $20 million. This case calls attention to the process of mountaintop removal and how its impossible not to violate provisions of the Clean Water Act as surface mining is currently practiced.
Peabody Coal is the world’s largest coal mining company, operating in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Wyoming. For four decades the US Government has assisted Peabody in attempts to force Navajo families off their ancestral homelands on Big Mountain and the surrounding communities around Black Mesa in Arizona. The communities continue to resist the forced relocation and construction of the Kayenta Mine.
Arch Coal is the second largest supplier of coal in the US and owner of the controversial Spruce Mine, the largest permitted site yet for MTR, in West Virginia. The mine was originally proposed in 1998 as a 3,100 acre expansion of another site that would have buried 10 miles of streams. Arch’s revised proposal from 2007 scaled the project back to encompassing 2,300 acres and 7 miles of streams. The company did obtain a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers three years ago, which environmental groups have been fighting since. The EPA is considering shutting down the entire mine for “unacceptable adverse impact,” which it has the power to do under the Clean Water Act but has only done 12 times since 1970 and never when the mine has had a permit. In response, Arch Coal is suing the EPA .
Alpha Natural Resources recently merged with US mining company Foundation Coal to become the third-largest coal producer in the US. They now operate 40 surface mines and 14 coal preparation plants in Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The Banks that Finance Coal Companies & Make MTR Possible
Citibank has lent billions to companies seeking to build new coal-fired power plants and companies that engage in mountaintop removal, such as Massey Energy, Foundation Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources. They recently released a policy for environmental due diligence regarding MTR. Other banks have less extensive ties, such as Wells Fargo who recently stopped investing in Massey Energy.
Bank of America used to be the biggest bank funder of mountaintop removal, helping finance $6 billion for Peabody Coal and $175 million for Massey Energy in 2006. They single-handedly invested $835 million in Foundation Coal in 2006, $700 million in Arch Coal over five years starting in 2006, and over $500 million in Alpha Natural Resources in 2005. Bank of America has since changed their coal policy to “phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal.” Their use of “predominant” means their policy only applies to companies that engage in surface mine extraction as at least 50% of their overall operations. It has led them to decline deals with an estimated three companies so far, information about which has not been publicly released by the bank. Many claim that Bank of America has stopped financing MTR, which is false. They still falsely believe that the process “can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts.”
JP Morgan Chase has recently become the largest financier of mountaintop removal. Over the past 17 years they have helped underwrite nearly 20 bond or loan deals worth a combined $8.5 trillion. In 2009 they invested $600 million in Arch Coal, which mined 4.7 million tons of coal from mountaintops that year. In 2008 they acted as the lead manager on a $690 million bond offering to Massey Energy. They are the only mega bank that has not scaled down its investment in MTR in the past few years.
None of these banks have changed their policies willingly. Every victory for mountain communities and ecosystems represents years of struggle by social justice, environmental, and community groups. Shareholder resolutions have been a successful tactic to change coal companies’ policies. The Shareholder Advocacy Committee at Loyola University in Chicago filed a resolution with JP Morgan Chase after students traveled to Appalachia and witnessed the devastation of mountaintop removal firsthand. The resolution asks the bank to publicly report on the impact of MTR mining by clients and the financial impact on the bank if it were to ban MTR financing. Boston Common Asset Management has filed another resolution that demands that Chase adhere to their signature on the 2008 Carbon Principles Agreement, which would improve environmental impact disclosure and ultimately shift more funding into sustainable energy projects. If your school is invested in JP Morgan Chase you could get them to file a resolution to increase public pressure on the company. If you’d like to find out if you are invested, or for more information on filing a resolution, REC can help! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not part of an institution, think about where you keep your money and how you might be supporting MTR through your bank account. If you have an account with JP Morgan Chase, or another of the big banks who finance MTR, consider moving your money to a local credit union or community development bank and tell your old bank you switched because of their investments in mountaintop removal.
In addition to utilizing shareholder resolutions, justice groups have put pressure on JP Morgan Chase and other banks that invest in MTR through protests and direct actions. Coal River Mountain Watch is a grassroots Appalachian group that works to end MTR and rebuild sustainable communities, the Rainforest Action Network is running a campaign against Chase, the Sierra Club is running a Beyond Coal campaign, and Mountain Justice brings young activists to Appalachia during the spring and summer to engage in direct actions such as sit-ins in the West Virginia Governor’s office and pickets at Massey Energy headquarters. Recently the Church of Life After Shopping dumped toxic dirt from MTR sites in West Virginia outside JP Morgan Chase’s New York headquarters and other branches throughout the city. You could plan a similar action against Chase (or another financier) in your community by handing our fliers to customers, holding a sit-in inside a branch, or organizing a speaker or a rally to educate those around you about the devastation caused by mountaintop removal.
We're working on gathering signatures on our petition to show student support, and finishing our Community Investment proposal. Our group is expanding and many alumni have expressed support.
We're currently working on a widespread information spreading campaign on campus, and we're finishing our proxy voting guidelines.
Brown became the first school to take action on labor abuses by HEI, a private company that operates several hotel chains in the U.S. Read more at http://www.yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2010/03/15/brown-speaks-out-embattled-investment-yale-alleged/
Students for Staff are offering teach-ins the first week of spring term, culminating when the trustees are meeting. Hoping to change the structure of the ACIR so it has greater power over investment decisions
Students on their CIR are busy voting proxies this season and supporting students who have entered the Cornell SustaInvest competition for sustainable investment.
Students on their CIR are actively outreaching to other CIRs to learn how they operate. They are also interested in pursuing a community investment campaign as well as getting Drew to sign on to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment.
Officials have refused to respond to repeated inquiries about the status of their responsible investment policy, which was suspended last year after the Palestine divestment situation.
Students hope to include SRI in the Earth Day activities and are continuing to work to open the campus credit union to students.
Loyola University of Chicago
The CIR filed a shareholder resolution against financing mountaintop removal mining at JP Morgan Chase. The resolution was omitted but the company has agreed to take a public stand against mountaintop removal mining. You can read more at http://www.endowmentethics.org/news-media/archives/205.
Students submitted a proposal for an SRI committee at the end of last semester and have been meeting with a fairly receptive administration regarding next steps.
Swat representatives attended the REC roundtable on shareholder engagement and hope to pursue greater collaboration with other area universities. They plan to host a similar collaborative roundtable this fall.
UC Berkeley and the UCs
The UC Coalition for Responsible Investment continues to organize around proxy voting by bringing speakers to campus and raising awareness about the issue in advance of the upcoming Regents meeting. Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley successfully got a student senate resolution that asked the university to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory. The student president vetoed it but the senate will consider overriding his veto later this month.
University of Chicago
Students continue to push for a responsible investment policy and plan to submit a proposal to their administration by the end of spring semester.
University of Virginia
Students in the Socially Responsible Investment Organization successfully convinced their student government to support their proposal for the responsible investment of UVA’s endowment. You can read more at (http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2009/12/01/studco-expresses-support-for-investment-proposal/).
A few of JP Morgan Chase’s competitors, such as Bank of America and Citigroup, have released policies or processes for environmental due diligence regarding MTR. The university is asking for a similar action from the company, as well as a clear and transparent policy for its stance on the issue - as a matter of both social and environmental justice and reputational risk.
Many such corporations believe that such environmental regulations are not their own responsibility, but rather under the purview of the government. Loyola has exemplified that colleges and universities, as shareholders, can – with a balanced approach – engage in dialogue with these companies to effect positive change in corporate behavior, and uphold their responsibilities, not only for their own success and credibility as global citizens, but for the common good.
Loyola’s SAC is receiving support from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, National Jesuit Committee on Investment Responsibility, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Seattle University, Stanford University and Columbia University.
Check out recent media on the issue at http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/jpmorgan-mountaintop-removal-mining
If your school is interested in participating in conversations such as Loyola’s Shareholder Advocacy Committee or if you’re interested in bringing the Move Your Money campaign to your campus as an extension of such a statement to banks like JP Morgan Chase, please contact the REC team. We are always happy to help!
What is burnout? Burnout is feeling chronically tired, listless or depressed, decreased immunity, increased aches and pains, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and worst of all, hopeless. It’s been described as feeling underwater, or being unable to ever catch up, or feeling bored or angry at colleagues. If you’re feeling this way it’s ok: it does not mean you are a bad activist or a bad person. It just means you—and the folks you work with—need to make some adjustments. (You can check to see if you’re burned out by visiting the ACLU's Burnout Prevention site.)
How do we get burned out? We take on too much, often without proper support, and fail to recognize the negative effects. We forgo celebrating or reflecting and instead focus only on the long to-do list in front of us. We neglect play. This is partly because of youth and zeal for our causes but part of it is also cultural. As activists we’re trained to put the needs of others first. Radical activism often operates in a culture of martyrdom that is defined by personal sacrifice. The trouble is this isn’t a realistic model or indicative of the world we’re trying to build.
So what can we do once we are burned out? What can we do to prevent it? Here’s a list, gathered from various authorities on the subject.
1. Colleen Holt, from Coaching for Social Change, recommends that we take “small sweet steps” towards recovery. Burnout can’t be fixed overnight, but if you make a commitment to do something every day that reminds you of your purpose as an individual, even if it just means watching the sunset each day, that’s a good step.
2. Rest! In an increasingly work-obsessed capitalist culture setting firm boundaries around rest and recreation is a radical act. Turn off your phone when you go on vacation. Sleep 8 hours a night. Schedule time for nothing.
3. Play! Stuart Brown, who has devoted his life to the science of play, has found that “the process of play allows us to deal with the craziness and allows generation of solutions to problems…in the absence of play we meet life’s paradoxes with bitterness and rigidity that prevents us from really engaging.” Basically, play helps us to maintain empowered strategic thinking. Without it we lose our edge.
4. Communicate. Let people know how you are feeling. We should trust the people we’re working with to build a better world to support us and recognize the capacity of the group. Ask people to reflect on this. You might even consider asking everyone to take the ACLU survey above.
5. Focus on virtuosity. Roberto Lovato, a highly successful community organizer, says “it is not enough to look good, it has to be good.” The only way our work can be strategic, nuanced, and have a lasting impact is if we give it the time and energy it requires. You can’t do that if you are divided among several groups or campaigns in a stressful harried schedule.
Burnout isn’t something that can be “fixed” overnight. In fact, to address it we have to look not only at ourselves, but also our organizations, our cultures, and our communities. Creating time for reflection for yourself and your group, and discussing burnout not as a tragedy but as a pitfall inherent in our work will help to empower you and others to make more sustainable choices. That will not only help us to continue to commit ourselves to social justice work, it will also make our movement welcoming to others.
In America there are no true movements toward social change that are not impacted by young people. This is more true than ever with the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) movement. The movement toward SRI is fueled by the knowledge that how we use our money in investments has just as much impact as how we spend money daily and how we use economic leverage in politics. Unfortunately, there are many people (young and old alike) who are unaware of this particular economic power. The SRI movement seeks to enlighten them and recruit them into making strategic changes in how they impact the world .
Colleges and Universities in America are uniquely positioned to take part in this movement because they maintain endowments and have a large population of active young people. What is an endowment? An endowment is basically a school's savings. It is the money the university puts into a "piggy bank" or invests in some way to save for the future. All institutions invest their endowments and do everything possible to ensure that the money grows. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (or HBCUs) are quite similar to other institutions in the ways they invest their endowments. HBCUs differ from other universities because they usually have a mission that includes the development and advancement of African Americans, a strong commitment to social justice, and a student body that values and embodies this. HBCUs are also different from other institutions because of the campus culture. Their investments, as such, should reflect this.
Endowment ethics is key to HBCUs because they have a strong history of promoting justice and equality (look for this in my next blog!). HBCUs are intrusted with the distinct duty of ensuring that they empower people of color and those negatively impacted by poverty and other injustices. HBCUs have an opportunity to offer assistance to underprivileged communities by investing their money in a socially responsible manner. The impact that HBCUs can have with their sizable endowments could change millions of lives for the better. It is up to the students at HBCUs to ensure that their colleges and universities live up to the standard that has been set. As students we owe it to ourselves and to our community to ensure that our universities invest in a socially responsible manner.
So, now that we know what SRI is and why it is important how do we do it? Investing in a socially responsible manner can come in many different forms. One of the most common ways is screening investments. This simply means that a university would prevent their endowment money from being invested in companies that have ties to certain industries. The most commonly screened is the Tobacco industry. Another form of socially responsible investing is shareholder advocacy (SA). SA is essentially owning a significant amount of stock or shares in a company that the university would like to see change and then assisting them in changing through shareholder resolutions and pressure from the university and other concerned shareholders. Many HBCUs do not invest directly in companies (many use mutual funds as the primary form of investment) so other ways of socially responsible investing must also be utilized. Another way to pursue SRI is to invest in community development. Community development can mean a variety of things as well. HBCUs are well known for investing in local businesses and providing a platform for small business owners to develop themselves. Community development can also include banking with a community development credit union (which makes small loans to local people who would otherwise be denied the opportunity to flouish in business) among other ways of spreading funds.
Okay, so not that you've consumed all of this new information where do we go from here? The first step is to get students, faculty, and staff on your campus to recognize the importance of SRI. This shouldn't be too difficult because most of them in some way already do. After there is recognition there must be action. Even if the action is only freshening up the university's policy on investing it is a very worthwhile effort. Students on all HBCU campuses should be campaigning to make certain that their campus is doing its best to live up to its motto and improve the surrounding community and ultimately the world. The legacy that any university has is created and maintained by its students. HBCUs already have a legacy of SRI but it is up to us, the current students, to solidify and build upon it to ensure a better more sustainable future for us all.
By Tahiya Sultan – California Student Organizer
The responsible investment movement in California is moving along! Last week, on March 10, 2010, UC Berkeley hosted an event about socially responsible investing titled “Discussion: Socially Responsible Investments and the UC” that featured John Harrington from Harrington Investments and one of the founders of SRI, Adam Sterling from the Sudan Divestment Taskforce and the movie “Darfur Now” and Morgan Simon from the Responsible Endowments Coalition. I worked with other students from the UC-wide responsible investments coalition to put together this event to raise awareness about SRI around our campus and educate people on what it means to us as students at a public institution. We had a great turn out, with people representing various campus organizations attend. The speakers were all so energetic and passionate about what they had to say, which was inspiring to everyone in the audience. The event sparked great discussions and drew a lot of interest. We had people write down their contact information so that they could join our UC-wide coalition or partake in mobilizing students to attend Regents meetings. We hope to follow up with people that attended the event to get them involved. One of our goals as a group representing different UC campuses is to spread our scope to other UC schools and expand our coalition to include more students. We are hoping that events like this will encourage this and promote the growth of our coalition.
Last month was upsetting because the UC Regents meeting was cancelled at the last minute after our UC group had spent weeks preparing and gathering students to attend the public opinion session. However, we have not lost our morale, and our plan is to have an even bigger turnout at the rescheduled meeting. We are still adamant about pushing our movement. The event that we held at Berkeley is one step towards pursuing our mission as a group. We are hoping to replicate and promote more awareness events similar to the one held at Berkeley so that other UC campuses can work on spreading awareness. We want the Regents to know that this is an issue that we will not stop fighting for. We are hoping to get more media attention to put pressure on the Regents to act. There are several people within our UC-wide group working on publicity and press. Others are working on research to present at the Regents meeting. The group as a whole is very effective because there are representatives from campuses including UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. We hope to eventually spread our scope. But, for now, there are several passionate individuals that take part in weekly conference calls and take on tasks that are delegated by the group. The ways that the group stays connected is through these weekly calls, threads online, and emails. We are hoping to have another retreat at some point to discuss our progress and if necessary, reevaluate our strategies.
Next week, I am planning to attend a conference in New York titled “Investing in a Sustainable Future.” I hope to take what I learn and apply it not only to my role as a Student Organizer, but also share it with the UC-wide responsible investments group. My goals for the rest of this semester are to keep promoting the growth of the uc-wide group and get media attention on the issue of responsible investing and the UC. I hope that our efforts will lead to the UC Regents adopting proxy voting guidelines, creating a committee on investor responsibility, and taking part in community investing. I don’t know how long this will take, but we’ll keep trying our best to do what we can to raise awareness, educate, pressure the Regents, and most importantly, pursue our passion for social and environmental justice. It’s important to constantly remind ourselves why we’re part of a movement, and for me, I want to continue to promote responsible investing because I think it’s a unique tool to foster social changes. I’m excited to see what changes will take place at the UC level!
It’s quite easy nowadays to vilify Big Business and conglomerated corporate interests. In fact, in a way, it’s become even fashionable — certainly not much of a surprise after watching the financial giants pull enormous profits out of thin air, cause a near collapse of our economy and then steal (under the guise of a federal bailout) our taxpayer money. Can you even feign shock that they are now actively (and productively) lobbying to ensure regulatory reform never sees a congressional agenda?
And it’s not just Michael Moore running around with an empty sack, pestering the old white boys at Goldman Sachs either. On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans are winning elections on the premise that they are “small government,” riding the tide of Wall Street v. Main Street sentiment falsely peddled out to a frustrated electorate, tossed around as pawns in a game of consolidating private wealth. As if any politician was for small government (do I hear private military contracting, anyone?).
By Greg Caplan, REC Midwest Student Organizer
On February 18th REC and the Sustainable Investing Institute presented a Proxy Season Forecast. As many annual meetings are approaching, it is a great time to discuss the various issues that have been raised to companies through the medium of the Shareholder Resolution. The Proxy Season Forecast was a rundown of all of the environmental and social issues that are included in shareholder resolutions to be voted on in 2010 annual meetings of shareholders. These issues were broken down into nine categories below, but it is interesting to note that if you combine sustainability reporting, climate change, and natural resources/toxics, environmental issues account for over 40% of social issues.
Some notable resolutions up for a vote:
· Hydraulic fracturing , which has 10 resolutions pending, is asking for corporations engaged in this mining technique to report on impacts, damage mitigation, risks, but the SEC challenges will be test of new risk approach. Hydraulic fracturing is a resource extraction method in which fluid is injected into fractures of rock in order to force resources such as oil and natural gas out. This increases the rate of extraction from reservoirs. Possible environmental issues associated with this process are contamination of the water supply and inducing seismic events.
· Mountain top removal financing is another new issue, with 2 proposals on the table, but it is also being challenged with the SEC because corporations are saying that it is an ordinary business challenge, and therefore cannot be voted on by the shareholders. Mountaintop removal is the process of blasting off the top of mountains with dynamite in order to expose resources, usually coal, in the interior of the mountain. Environmental issues associated with mountaintop removal are loss of biodiversity and contamination of the air and water surrounding the area.
· In Climate Change a very interesting new development is the trend toward asking corporations to adopt 6 BICEP principles . There are 9 of these resolutions pending. The BICEP principles call for corporations to cut emissions, set goals, pressure regulators, develop clean energy options, and adapt to and mitigate climate change.
If you would like to learn more about pending shareholder resolutions you should visit ProxyDemocracy.org! It is a great site and much easier to navigate than any other site I have seen on Proxy Voting and pending votes. Shareholder resolutions are most effective when they draw a lot of yes votes, so please consider supporting these resolutions. If you would like more information about how to get involved, please contact REC at .
By the Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund
New Haven, Connecticut – The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund has launched the first undergraduate-run socially responsible endowment investment in the country.
Developed by members of Dwight Hall’s student-run socially responsible investment (SRI) committee, the first of its kind in the country, the Market-Driven and Mission-Driven Portfolios aim to promote Dwight Hall’s social values while earning financial returns to support the Dwight Hall operating budget. The investments have been authorized by the Dwight Hall Board of Trustees.
The Dwight Hall Socially Responsible Investment Fund was created in 2007 by the Board of Trustees of Dwight Hall, Yale University’s umbrella organization for public service and social justice groups, to invest a portion of Dwight Hall’s endowment according to environmental, social, and corporate governance guidelines. As the first undergraduate-run socially responsible investment endowment in the nation, the Fund aims to bring Dwight Hall’s investment policy in line with its institutional commitment to social change. “The Dwight Hall SRI Fund is an innovative form of service that allows Dwight Hall to dedicate its resources fully to improving the communities in which it operates,” says committee chair Thomas Meyer ‘11.
Composed of about ten undergraduate students who receive mentoring from graduate students at the Yale School of Management, the Dwight Hall SRI Fund represents the nation’s first undergraduate socially responsible investment group whose returns are expected to support the institution with which it is affiliated. The Fund has become the leading student-run socially responsible investment initiatives in the country, and its combined market- and mission-based approach represents an innovative SRI model.
When compiling their Market-Driven Portfolio proposal, students considered the entire universe of socially responsible investment funds and applicable traditional funds, using funnel analysis to eliminate funds that did not meet the group’s needs. Positive and negative screening allowed students to evaluate the environmental, labor, and corporate governance policies of funds’ holdings. Funds with assets greater than $200 million under management were expected to engage in shareholder advocacy. Students also considered funds’ past performance, manager experience, duration of existence, investment strategy, and fee structure. Each fund in the portfolio is expected to perform in line with or outperform the standard benchmark of its asset class.
The Mission-Driven Portfolio consists of a $10,000 investment in a certificate of deposit at The Community’s Bank of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Chartered under the Community Reinvestment Act, the Bridgeport bank focuses on providing individuals underserved by the traditional banking community with access to credit. Both FDIC-insured and classified as a community development bank, The Community’s Bank met the group’s criteria for financial viability and social impact. The bank was selected after extensive research on investment options that would benefit the New Haven-area communities served by Dwight Hall.
Socially responsible investing refers to an investment strategy that seeks to maximize both financial return and social good, taking into account the social impact of a particular investment when making acquisition decisions. This approach has roots in investment strategies of nineteenth century American religious groups. It became increasingly prominent in the 1990s when institutional divestment of holdings with ties to South Africa—including at Dwight Hall—generated significant pressure to end apartheid. “With the support of hundreds of institutional investors representing trillions of dollars, responsible investment is playing a growing and prominent role in modern finance,” says committee member Aaron Podolny ‘12.
Following these initial investments, the Dwight Hall socially responsible investment committee will monitor the overall portfolio’s performance to ensure that it continues to meet their investment objectives. The group will also explore options for further mission-based community investments. A letter of intent has already been sent to help the First Community Bank of New Haven complete its federal chartering process. “It’s exciting to see the country’s first undergraduate SRI endowment move forward with an investment strategy that not only will help to support the programs that Dwight Hall runs but also will grow in a healthy and responsible way,” says Meyer.