McGill and other Canadian universities unite to address climate change

Responsible investment practices to accelerate transition to a low-carbon economy
Published: 18 June 2020

Today, a group of 15 leading universities across Canada, spearheaded by McGill University and the University of Toronto, are uniting to tackle the global challenge of climate change by pledging to follow responsible investment practices. Their efforts are outlined in Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities.

Climate change is a complex issue and as institutional investors, universities have an important role to play in responding to this global challenge and share a duty to manage their long-term investments in ways that acknowledge and account for these developments.

“Climate change is now recognized as the defining challenge facing humanity, already leading to profound social, economic and environmental changes in Canada and around the world,” said McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Suzanne Fortier. “McGill recognizes and embraces the unique responsibility of universities to support societies in their transition toward sustainability, by generating the knowledge needed to create a more sustainable future, as well as cultivating citizens and leaders who have the skills and commitment to put that knowledge into practice.”

With these considerations in mind, the charter’s signatories pledge to abide by the following principles and practices, and encourage other universities to do the same:

  1. Adopt a responsible investing framework to guide investment decision-making, in line with recognized standards such as the UN Principles of Responsible Investing (UN-PRI). Such a framework should:
    • Incorporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into investment management practices
    • Encourage active engagement with companies to foster disclosure of ESG (including climate) related risks, and adoption of operational practices that reduce carbon emissions and foster ESG-positive behaviour more broadly
  2. Regularly measure the carbon intensity of our investment portfolios, and set meaningful targets for their reduction over time
  3. Evaluate progress towards these objectives on a regular basis, and share the results of such assessments publicly
  4. Ensure that the performance evaluation of university investment managers takes into account their success in achieving such objectives, alongside the normal criteria for assessing their performance

An advisory board was formed to review the Charter periodically, share expertise on evolving investment practices as well as participate in a biennial conference with the Charters’ signatories. The advisory board members are comprised of high profile and seasoned professionals in Canada: Mark Carney, Pauline D’Amboise, Michael Sabia and Barbara Zvan. 

This charter is just one of the many ways universities are working to address climate change. The signatory universities (see below) are also committed to playing a leadership role in addressing climate change through research, teaching and by taking action to reduce the carbon footprint of their campuses.

“McGill itself has already committed to an ambitious plan of actions that involves its investments, academic mission, operations, governance and management,” added Principal Fortier.

Signatory universities:

McGill University

Université de Montréal

University of Toronto

University of Ottawa

University of British Columbia

Queen’s University

Dalhousie University

Simon Fraser University

University of Guelph

University of Victoria

Université Laval

University of Waterloo

University of Manitoba

Western University

McMaster University


This initiative is intended to be inclusive and to complement the actions undertaken by other institutions in Canada wishing to join.

About McGill University

Founded in 1821, McGill University is home to exceptional students, faculty, and staff from across Canada and around the world. It is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students.  McGill’s commitment to sustainability reaches back several decades and spans scales from local to global. The sustainability declarations that we have signed affirm our role in helping to shape a future where people and the planet can flourish.  

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