Trustees Approve Socially Responsible Investment Strategy


December 10, 2018

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Gonzaga University Board of Trustees, at its Dec. 7 meeting, approved the recommendation of its Investment Committee to adopt a holistic, comprehensive approach to socially responsible investing. The action reflects the University’s concerns for social and environmental issues, and its Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic mission.

“This ensures the University is investing in ways that honor our commitment to the environment, sustainability and social justice. At the same time, it is a balanced approach that will maintain and strengthen the endowment, which is essential to make a Gonzaga education accessible and affordable for our students,” said Joe Smith, chief financial officer. “Taken together, these actions have the highest potential for creating positive, sustainable and measurable impact.”

The Investment Committee recommended — and the Board of Trustees agreed — that for Gonzaga, an intentional commitment to invest in companies that are implementing ways to reduce carbon emissions and have sustainable practices has the most opportunity for impact. The University will initially target approximately $10 million to invest in new funds involved in research and activities that reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, promote social responsibility, and seek solutions for climate change.

Under the new approach, Gonzaga also will introduce new tools to measure and evaluate current and prospective fund investments against socially responsible investing (SRI) criteria, and use such tools and criteria to inform decision-making. Gonzaga will also regularly communicate to investment managers its view on the importance of socially responsible investing.

Additionally, the Investment Committee will report annually on the effectiveness of the approach, and provide opportunity for feedback and suggestions from the Gonzaga community.

The concept of divesting from “the 200 most carbon-intensive companies” was proposed by a May 2017 Gonzaga Student Body Association Resolution and taken under serious consideration by the Board of Trustees. Upon the advice of its Investment Committee, the Trustees ultimately concluded that proactive investment in companies that are implementing ways to reduce carbon emissions and have sustainable business practices is more impactful and financially responsible than blanket divestment from the Top 200 list.

The decision comes after a yearlong study by the Environment, Social and Governance [ESG] Task Force of the Investment Committee that included broad engagement from the Gonzaga community.

“We are grateful for the activism of our students and the involvement of faculty, staff, and alumni around care for our planet and social justice issues,” said Smith. “Their voices helped to inform and achieve this new direction in socially responsible investing.”

Socially responsible investing is part of an ongoing, comprehensive sustainability initiative at Gonzaga that includes an institutional Climate Action Plan, involvement in national organizations and programs, specific articulated goals in the University’s strategic plan, and a host of campuswide sustainability measures that are making significant impact. Learn more at Gonzaga.edu/sustainability.