It’s long been a dirty secret in the university world that they don’t necessarily practice what they preach. Prestigious (and expensive) universities that teach governance and ethics don’t necessarily use the principles they teach when investing for endowments. The same is true for environmental issues — a hot topic on campus for several years now. As Michael McDonald reported in Bloomberg yesterday, “While universities lead when it comes to comprehending climate change, teaching and researching how man-made carbon dioxide emissions result in rising temperatures, endowments until now have been largely off-limits.” Investment officers don’t want restrictions on the portfolios because they want success — one could say, at any cost.
There is a movement afoot, however, that could prove interesting. Students are pushing at over 300 universities to divest in “of investments in 200 publicly traded companies with the largest reserves of oil, gas and coal.”
Could this translate into more pressure on endowment officers to be responsible shareholders all around? We’ll see but this is worth watching.