Socially-conscious investments growing in importance for higher ed constituents
- Pitzer College has established a new "global equity index" to help guide investment decisions regarding the school's endowment that will help the institution avoid investing in fossil fuel companies and will help the school find environmentally and community-conscious companies to invest in, according to Board of Trustees Vice Chair Donald P. Gould, who is also the chair of the investment committee.
- Gould said the school's investments and its $135 million endowment will continue to thrive even with the added conditions set by consideration of the newly-established index. The school also achieved a 25% carbon footprint reduction in 2016, and the index sprang from a 2014 decision on the part of school leaders to incorporate more "environmental, social and governance factors" in the decision-making process, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Gould said an analysis of the long-term impact of divestment from fossil fuel companies was determined to be "negligible," with the possibility that it will be more beneficial for institutions to divest in the future as industries move away from fossil fuels due to climate change. Gould said there is some evidence to support the idea that companies paying attention to those issues benefit in the long run, though it is not conclusive.
Although Gould was not an activist during his college education, his two children who were enrolled in college in recent years have been far more politically engaged, informing their father's opinions at the helm of the investment committee. The fractious political climate and widespread use of social media make it unlikely politics will retreat from campus, so higher ed institutions can work with the trend by publicizing any activist and politically-conscious decisions in their administrative practices.
The increased partisanship on campus can present a difficult divide for administrators to navigate. The president of Warren Wilson College noted in October that she wants more conversation on campuses to make conservative students feel welcome, but such students may feel like a school is not welcoming them by using their investment decisions as a marketing tool. Schools could counter this by finding ways to incorporate more student and faculty discussion and buy-in into investment and endowment decisions.
- Chronicle of Higher Education How One College Decided to Invest More Responsibly