Board Resolution Speaks to Social Impacts of Investments

Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution Feb. 28 to consider “environmental, social or governance factors” as part of the university’s investment process.

The resolution speaks to concerns that students at Wesleyan and across the country have raised regarding investments in fossil fuel companies. Coal companies have been a particular focus because the burning of coal is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Board action – under consideration by its Investment Committee for some time – followed a meeting between the Investment Committee and the Committee for Investor Responsibility (CIR), composed of student, faculty and staff representatives.

The CIR urged divestment from any direct holdings in coal companies after examining the issue from social, economic and ethical perspectives.

While Wesleyan currently has no direct investments in coal, President Michael S. Roth said the resolution gives the Investment Committee broad flexibility and a framework to consider social impacts of investments – not limited to the particular issue of coal.

Specifically, the resolution states: “The Committee believes that thoughtful engagement on environmental, social and governance matters is consistent with enhancing long-term returns and with prudently managing the endowment for the long-term benefit of the university.”

In its resolution the committee cited The Ethical Investor as “a seminal work that helped define the role for university endowments, foundations and other organizations seeking to balance fiduciary and socially responsible goals as investors.” This work provides guidelines for evaluating social harm.

“Trustees were particularly appreciative of the nuanced and careful work done by the Committee for Investor Responsibility,” Roth said. “The Board would not have been in a position to adopt new language without the contributions of students on the committee.”