Statement on August 1st Fair Harvard Fund Deadline

Four months ago, a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni called the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition launched the Fair Harvard Fund. The Fair Harvard Fund seeks to motivate the Harvard Management Corporation to establish a Social Choice fund to invest donations in alignment with established environmental, social, and governance criteria. So far, nearly 450 students and alumni have donated $10,519 to the fund. This money is being withheld from the Harvard endowment until the Harvard Corporation and Harvard Management Company (HMC) agree to create a Social Choice fund so that alumni donors can give to Harvard and be sure that their money is being invested in a socially responsible manner.

When the fund was launched, RI@Harvard declared: “If the HMC has not created a Social Choice fund by August 1, 2012, the FHF will be invested according to environmental, social, and governance criteria by the Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), a 501c3 non-profit organization, until the HMC accepts the money.”

In the past four months, we have spoken to many of Harvard’s top administrators about the Fair Harvard Fund. Despite indications that the creation of a Social Choice fund would be feasible, Harvard has given no indication that it is interested in receiving the contributions of these 450 donors. With one day left until the August 1st deadline, we sincerely hope that the Harvard Corporation will ask the HMC to accept the Fair Harvard Fund. If it does not, we will transfer the fund to the Responsible Endowments Coalition and begin the process of choosing a socially responsible investment manager.

In the meantime, the Fair Harvard Fund will continue to grow through donations (accepted at fairharvardfund.com) until Harvard decides to make a commitment to socially responsible investment and create a Social Choice fund. We hope the Harvard community will join us as we expand our efforts to encourage Harvard to create a Social Choice fund.

New Report: Endowment ESG “Less Than Meets the Eye”

The Tellus Institute and the IRRC Institute have released a comprehensive report entitled “Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States: Social Responsibility, Sustainability, and Stakeholder Relations.” Check out the survey of ESG investment in higher education at this link!

The authors find that “endowments no longer appear to be leaders in the greatly evolved institutional ESG investment space.” In fact, “the endowment community, on the whole, exhibits a very weak understanding of ESG investing strategies, trends, opportunities, and language.” We hope this publication will help colleges and universities return to the forefront of responsible investment.