Harvard undergraduates overwhelmingly vote for Social Choice Fund

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, please contact:
Gabriel Bayard (Harvard College, Class of 2015) at 916-753-6118 or gbayard@college.harvard.edu

HARVARD STUDENTS VOTE FOR SOCIAL CHOICE FUND

CAMBRIDGE, MA, November 17, 2012—Results released this morning revealed 80.5% student approval for a Harvard College-wide referendum calling on the Harvard Management Company, which manages the university’s $30.7 billion endowment, to accept a fund adhering to responsible investment practices.

“This resounding endorsement from the student body demonstrates how important it is that Harvard not only educate us to be responsible citizens but also show responsibility in the entirety of its mission,” Lindsey Claus, Harvard ’16, said.

Four hundred and fifty students, alumni, and faculty have already contributed $11,200 to the Fair Harvard Fund, which is being held in escrow by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition until Harvard agrees to accept it by creating a social choice fund as part of its endowment.

Since December 2011, the Coalition has advocated for the creation of a social choice fund which prioritizes investment opportunities that promote social good and yield high returns. Harvard administrators have stated that the university is considering establishing a social choice fund.

“Hopefully, our overwhelming student approval will encourage them to accept the $11,200 currently being withheld from our endowment,” Nicole Granath, Harvard ’15, the Co-Coordinator of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition said.

Krishna Dasaratha, Harvard ’13, the Treasurer of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, said, “In the last two years, Harvard has allegedly committed capital to several socially irresponsible companies, including a hedge fund that engages in land grabs from small-hold farmers in Mozambique and a private equity fund accused of repeatedly mistreating hotel workers.”

“We hope an alternative can be established to incentivize more student and alumni donations to the university we love,” Camilla Gibson, Harvard ’15, said. “A social choice fund would yield high returns and produce positive social impact, aligning Harvard’s mission in the world with its investment strategy.”

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Fair Harvard Fund Visioning Session Notes

At the Future of Higher Education Endowments on November 9th, Initiative for Responsible Investment Senior Fellows Steve Lydenberg and Jay Youngdahl led a visioning session on the Fair Harvard Fund. We invited the Harvard community and the 450 Fair Harvard Fund donors to the session, where we discussed the fund’s Investment Beliefs. Thanks to Steve and Jay for leading the session, and to the Responsible Endowments Coalition and the Initiative for Responsible Investment for hosting the conference. Click here for the notes in PDF form.

Vote Yes for a Social Choice Fund!

The Undergraduate Council presidential election ballot next week also features three ballot referenda, asking the student body its opinion on important issues–including a social choice fund!

To support RI@Harvard and the Fair Harvard Fund, please vote YES  on Question 3 (check out the text below). You can also RSVP on Facebook here.

The creation of a social choice fund option–whose investment guidelines follow environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria for positive social impact–would prioritize investment opportunities which both promote social good and yield high returns.

Since the 1970s Harvard has faced several high-profile protest campaigns related to its investment practices. The management of the University’s $32 billion endowment has furthermore proven to be opaque, additionally undermining trust within our community.

Alumni, faculty, and student donors should be offered the option, when asked to contribute to Harvard’s endowment, of directing their gifts to a fund which takes into account social as well as fiduciary responsibility. A social choice fund would allow Harvard to build an endowment that is better for the University and for the world.

The Need for Sustainable Investment Now

Erika Karp,  Managing Director and Head, Global Sector Research, UBS Investment Bank, and a member of the Harvard Business School Executive Education  program on “Innovating for Sustainability,” wrote an article in Forbes on Nov. 8 titled “Sustainable Capitalism…If not now, then when?” She calls on companies to reform how they operate in order to be successful in the future through increased collaboration and more transparency by investing responsibly according to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.

Read her article here.