Friday, April 18, 2014

The Intentionally Designed Endowment: A Primer

What is an “intentionally designed endowment”?  Earlier this month, with support from a high caliber Steering Committee, we convened a group of representatives from endowed institutions and the finance industry to explore this question. The event was a partnership by Second Nature and Hampshire College intended to open up a constructive conversation around the opportunities in sustainability investing for non-profit institutions.

We developed a primer for participants to establish a baseline understanding of key issues related to aligning investment practices with institutional values. It provides a high-level overview of sustainability investing, including a brief history, and a select list of key resources and relevant organizations.

Any non-profit administrator or trustee with fiduciary responsibility or involved with investment policies should be familiar with this rapidly evolving field: Intentionally Designed Endowment Primer

While we are all aware of the fossil fuel divestment movement – which has been instrumental in bringing increased attention to endowment investment practices – this was not a meeting about divestment.

We learned about the broad range of socially responsible investing (SRI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing strategies now available, many of which now have long track records with performance equal to or better than conventional investment approaches. We heard from investment professionals about a range of implementation strategies for aligning investment practices with institutional values. A panel of legal experts clarified the issues of fiduciary responsibility as they relate to integrating ESG criteria into investment decision-making.

Risks and opportunities related to environmental challenges, social issues, and corporate governance are increasingly relevant to investment portfolios as society’s sustainability challenges become more acute. Non-profit endowments have a tremendous opportunity to avoid losses and maximize returns, while better aligning their investment practices with institutional values.

Stay going.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Institutional Investor Covers Fossil Fuel Divestment

Great to see Institutional Investor cover the divestment movement with the video below and this article: Climate Change and the Fossil Fuel Divestiture Movement.

One of my favorite lines from the article: "In the same way that there was plenty of money to be made in U.S. subprime mortgages until there wasn't, many investors see a lot of opportunities right now in the energy sector."

It was great to see a couple of participants from our recent Intentionally Designed Endowment event in the video -- keynote speaker Bob Litterman speaking on the risk management aspects of this, and Responsible Endowments Coalition Executive Director Dan Apfel, talking about the student movement.

Stay going. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Winning the Sustainability Game

The latest from Sustainability Illustrated --- running through the 4 sustainability principles, or 'system conditions' for success in terms of sustainability.

You can't take a strategic approach to sustainability without knowing where you're going.  These principles provide that ultimate goal -- not in detail, because the world is too complex to predetermine exactly what sustainability will look like -- but in principle.  We know the basic mechanisms by which we are undermining the social and ecological systems upon which we depend, so by eliminating those, we can move strategically toward sustainability:

Subscribe to Sustainability Illustrated for more great videos and share widely! 

Stay going. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sustainability Investing Myths

Curious about what Sustainability Investing is?  Think it's a fringe concept or do-gooder altruism?  Check out this very brief video from RobecoSAM for a quick primer:

Stay going.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Apply Now for Master's Programs in Sustainability & A Brief History of My Recent Life

Applications are open (through Jan. 15) for two amazing sustainability master’s programs in Sweden – MSLS and MSPI (details below). Please share with anyone you think might be interested in a transformative international experience.  Here’s a quick run down of mine:

The genesis of this blog was one of these programs that I attended eight years ago.  (It was those ancient days before Facebook and Gmail were really things, and I was emailing friends & family about this amazing experience, when I realized: this is why they invented blogs).

The experience changed my life. 

It tied together all of the things I’d been trying to do for years to assemble a career in the sustainability field. It gave me a great framework and opened my eyes to whole new worlds, new ways of thinking, amazingly exciting areas of theory and research.

I met my wife. 

It tapped me into an incredibly dynamic, engaged, welcoming, and exciting international network of sustainability leaders. I met ‘gurus’ whose books I had loved and who I never figured I meet. They became thesis advisors, mentors, and friends.

We got a puppy. 

It led directly to exciting jobs and projects with huge sustainability impact, and endless opportunities for learning and growth. We got to present at conferences, meet incredible leaders. 

We had a baby.

The program left me with lifelong friends, and every since I’ve been able to look up fellow alumni in just about every part of the world, get introductions, crash in guestrooms, and make more lifelong friends.

We have a shared language and a shared understanding about the big challenges society faces, and the unbelievably exciting solutions that have the potential to improve quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.

Please check out the details below if you’re at all interested, and share with anyone else you think might be – maybe some recent college grads, or a friend thinking about a career change, or someone looking to incorporate some bigger-picture meaning into their current role, or someone already working in a sustainability-related field, who might want to recharge and get re-inspired...


Sustainability Master’s Programmes at the Blekinge Institute of Technology

The Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH) is a top ranked sustainability research and education institution currently recruiting talented, early to mid career professionals for its cutting-edge Masters programs. BTH is located in the beautiful coastal city of Karlskrona, a UNESCO world heritage site on the southeast coast of Sweden.

There are two MSc programs available, both suited for early- to mid-career professionals from around the world (the 450 alumni have come from 69 different countries), and taught in English.
The Master's in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) program is a one-year program founded on the basic premise that a "whole-system," trans-disciplinary approach is needed to deal with the sustainability challenge.  Two integrated streams are the focus: 1) a framework for strategic sustainable development; and 2) organizational learning and leadership required for sustainability decision-making.
The Master’s in Sustainable Product/Service System Innovation (MSPI) program is two-year program designed for students wishing to combine engineering competence with sustainability knowledge to help deliver new product and service systems.  Specifically, students learn to analyze sustainability challenges for an organization in a scientific manner; introduce a strategic perspective on sustainability to a company’s product innovation process; use new methods and tools to work with sustainable product and service innovation in industry; and support a transition towards a more service-oriented economy.  More info can be found at:
Both programs are delivered in a non-traditional educational setting through experiential and holistic learning methods.  Tuition is 100,000 SEK (about US$15,000), and is paid by the Swedish government for EU and EEA citizens.

Applications are due January 15th, 2014.


"The question of reaching sustainability is not about if we will have enough energy, enough food, or other tangible resources - those we have. The question is: will there be enough leaders in time?"

-- Dr. Karl-Henrik Robčrt and Dr. Göran Broman program co-founders.

Stay going.