Harvard’s Responsible Investment History

Harvard’s Responsible Investment History:

A brief timeline of Harvard’s initiatives in responsible investing.
Please also read our advisory board member Bob Monks’ “Outsider’s History of Harvard and Responsible Investment: 1970-2014” 

1971: President Nathan Pusey and the Harvard Corporation write to the University Governance Commission that, “Harvard will not make investments which, according to information which has come to our attention and which we believe is reliable, support activities whose primary impact is contrary to fundamental and widely shared ethical principles.”

1972: President Derek Bok establishes the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) and Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) as a result of the campaign for divestment from investments in apartheid South Africa and Gulf Oil.

1972: Harvard leads a consortium of universities to establish the Investor Responsibility Research Center, under Institutional Shareholder Services, to research issues of social responsibility for institutional investors.

1974: The Harvard Management Company (HMC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvard University, is established to serve as an internal financial management corporation controlling, at the time, 90 percent of the University’s endowment. Prior to the establishment of HMC, Harvard’s asset manager was State Street Research and Management. See also here and here.

1980: The ACSR calls on the Atlantic Richfield Company to not expand its investments in Chile under the oppressive Pinochet regime.

1984: A student campaign for divestment from South Africa erects “shantytowns” in historic Harvard Yard to shed light on irresponsible investment practices.

1984: The Radcliffe Board of Trustees votes to make investments only in companies that have signed the Sullivan Principles, thereby effectively “screening” its investments. At the time, Radcliffe held an investment portfolio separate from that of Harvard’s.

1988: The Crimson reports that the Harvard and Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid (HRAAA) collect more than 4000 signatures in an effort to place pro-divestment candidates on the ballot for the Harvard Board of Overseers. Although Harvard enacted “selective divestment,” it never fully divested from apartheid South Africa.

2005-2006: In response to student campaigns, Harvard divests from PetroChina and SinoPec, companies linked to genocide in Darfur.

2010: Harvard College receives a “C” for Endowment Transparency in the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card

2011: Oakland Institute publishes a report entitled “Land Deal Brief: Deciphering Emergent’s Investments in Africa,” which links Harvard to African land grabs.

The Coalition for Responsible Investment at Harvard is established.

2012: Harvard declares that it will not reinvest in HEI Hotels and Resorts, a company accused of unjust labor practices, after reviewing its business practices in response to student demand.

2012: Divest Harvard becomes one of the first student groups in a nation-wide movement to demand that their university divest its endowment from fossil fuels. 72% of Harvard students vote in favor of fossil fuel divestment in the fall 2012 referendum.

After over 450 donors put money in the Fair Harvard Fund, an escrow fund established by the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, Harvard announces that it will create a Social Alternative Fund outside of the endowment as an option for alumni donors. The Social Alternative Fund will be in invested in Parnassus, an SRI fund.

2013: The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition begins investigating Harvard’s directly-held natural resource companies. Harvard’s timber plantations in Chile are taken to court three times for illegally felling native forests, and RI@H releases a report on Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá wetlands.

2014: Two years after we had called for Harvard to sign the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, Harvard becomes the first university in the US to sign the UNPRI.


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