Working for Transparency
NOTE: The Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group was dissolved in May 2019. The President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability now serves as the forum for discussion of ESG issues relating to the endowment.
The Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees created the Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group (DSIG) as a standing subcommittee of the President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability (PCES) in response to ongoing interest from community members in environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles. DSIG was established to provide a forum for the Dickinson community to discuss questions about the college’s investments and ESG principles, and to act as a liaison between the Dickinson community and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Investments.
The specific charges given to DSIG were:
- Provide a forum for members of the Dickinson community to raise and discuss questions regarding ESG practices of the college, recognizing that there is no commonly held definition or criteria of ESG principles or goals.
- Annually, meet with the Investment Committee to discuss a regular annual report on our investment portfolio. As a participant in that discussion, provide input and share policies, practices and goals of other higher education institutions and other relevant sectors.
- Act as a liaison between the Dickinson community and the Investment Committee regarding the annual review of our investment portfolio.
- Monitor the performance of the college’s sustainability goals by working closely with and advising a soon to be appointed manager of sustainability initiatives.
- Review and report annually to the Dickinson community with respect to the college’s sustainability goals and initiatives.
Members of DSIG included faculty, administration and students, along with liaisons from the Board of Trustees, Investure and Dickinson alumni. Each year, students and college mentors formed working groups to explore various topics of interest and reported out to the Investment Committee during the winter board meetings.
The working group has researched and discussed a variety of topics on sustainable investing, including the following:
- ESG investment policies and practices at peer institutions, including a comparison of AASHE STARS reporting
- Measuring soft returns on Dickinson’s investment in sustainability (recruiting students, alumni engagement and giving, etc.)
- Divestment announcements at other institutions
- Defining sustainable investments and how to prioritize ESG factors
- Developing an Investment Beliefs Statement for use by DSIG
- Purchasing carbon offsets versus direct investments in the local community to help reach our sustainability goals
- Developing a Sustainability Efforts Timeline to memorialize key sustainable investment actions
- Assessing the impact of sustainable investments made on campus, including the development of student engagement surveys
- Carbon pricing initiatives implemented on other campuses
- Identifying different ways to assess endowment portfolios, including a carbon footprinting analysis
- Exploring opportunities for direct communication with organizations to advocate for approval or rejection of climate-based shareholder resolutions
- Identifying meaningful and impactful climate change initiatives in order to highlight sustainable companies in the endowment portfolio
- Developing a Sustainable Investments Reporting Policy to guide performance reporting for AASHE STARS and other external reports
- Researching and communicating the impact of Dickinson’s sustainability activities on communities of the greater Carlisle area (college farm, ALLARM, CSE, etc.)
The following is a summary of the annual forum topics presented by DSIG:
April 2015 – All-Campus Investment Forum
A presentation and Q&A to discuss sustainable investing and the college’s endowment management practices. A Q&A recap was forwarded to the community following the forum and is summarized under the following link: Questions & Responses to the Community Investment Forum- April 23, 2015
January 2016 – Managing Dickinson’s Investments with an Eye on Sustainability
A presentation to inform the campus about how the endowment is invested and managed, along with an overview of sustainable investments made directly on campus. Audience participation through Q&A.
February 2016 – Sustainability. It’s Time for Dialog
A follow up to the discussion held in January to explore six key topics on sustainability at Dickinson by way of round table discussions facilitated by DSIG members.
October 2016 – Financing Climate Change at Dickinson
A presentation on Dickinson’s 2020 commitment and projects in place to help reduce our emissions, along with participant discussion about behavior changes and other ways to help achieve our goals.
October 2018 – Sustainable Endowment?
A presentation on the college’s endowment structure and approach to sustainable investing with a focus on the approach used by Graham Partners, one of the endowment’s fund managers.