Universities Moving Toward Responsible Investing in 2013

Continued from 2013- Still Learning How To Ride a Bike

Speaking of golden geese, a few universities will likely start feeling the heat, as not only their endowment funds but their golden pensions’ investments are about to questioned.

While many universities, including institutions here in Victoria are seemingly walking the sustainability walk not all is well. In the past decade many universities have branded themselves as sustainability gurus by erecting buildings with relatively low carbon footprints and carrying out natural garden plantings and focusing on the large student appetites for sustainability courses, including business schools. A group of students with the help of some environmental organizations are questioning why universities like Victoria continue to shun responsible investing practices.

UVic’s campus newspaper, The Martlett, wrote,“UVic’s endowment funds total around $270 million currently, and the market value of its pension fund investments (which comprise a balanced fund and defined retirement benefit fund) totalled around $678 million at the end of last year. According to Common Energy, both the endowment and pension funds were invested in corporations engaged in controversial practices, such as human rights abuses and fossil fuel development.” It is noted, however, that earlier this summer The University of Victoria Foundation’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution binding their fund manager to consider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in making decisions about the use of funds. The much larger pension fund, however, has not received similar treatment.

It seems to me that it may be time to legislate Responsible Investment practices before one of these pension funds or endowments are challenged for their lack of due diligence. It is time all shareholders take responsibility for the actions of the companies they hold shares of. Besides they may find out, as millions of other investors have, that they will get improved returns.

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Lastly, the Social Investment Organization has a new website that some may find of interest. It can be found at www.socialinvestment.ca


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