McGill to decrease the carbon footprint of investments

December 5, 2019

 

Dear members of the McGill community,

We are sharing with you the University’s decision to decrease the overall carbon-intensity of its investment portfolio, following the Board of Governors’ approval of all the recommendations proposed by the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) today.

CAMSR’s report stems from an October 2018 Senate resolution to consider divesting the University’s endowment fund. The Board, in recognition of the University’s commitment to fighting climate change and its own stewardship role with respect to sustainability, tasked CAMSR with studying the matter.

In its report, CAMSR recommended that the University engage in the following:

  • Reduce the overall carbon footprint of the McGill Investment Pool (“MIP”), which will result in divesting from highly carbon intensive companies, including those within the fossil fuel industry.
  • Intensify holdings in low-carbon funds, as well as funds that contribute to decarbonisation, such as clean technologies and renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Increase investment in the University’s existing fossil-fuel-free fund.
  • Take an active stewardship role, where possible, with investment companies.
  • Amend the MIP Statement of Investment Policy’s investment objectives to reflect the University’s environmental commitment.
  • Communicate McGill’s socially responsible investment (SRI) activities. This annual SRI report is to include metrics such as the percentage of portfolio managers that are signatories of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) or have an environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) policy.

Additionally, CAMSR recommended that the Board monitor progress on the above recommendations, and commit to reviewing the current SRI practices on a five-year basis in order to determine the need for any adjustments or further SRI actions, as may be advisable in relation to the University’s endowment fund. CAMSR also recommended that the University, in line with its mission, takes a leadership role to evaluate and promote, in collaboration with peer U15 universities, best practices in the area of sustainability/investment.

Since 2016, the University has made much progress in advancing sustainability as a key priority. Adopting a more carbon-conscious investment approach complements McGill’s far-reaching climate change and sustainability goals, including institution-wide efforts to achieve carbon neutrality across the University’s operations by 2040. With an ambitious vision, McGill has established a pathway to becoming a leading university in the study and practice of sustainability. As outlined in McGill’s Climate & Sustainability Action Plan, we have established ambitious targets in a variety of areas. The University’s resolve to combat climate change is reflected in the knowledge being created and shared by our researchers and students, and – as seen in the CAMSR’s recommendations – in the responsibility of protecting and growing our endowment assets. All these areas work together to move our University forward.

CAMSR will now engage in determining responsible, proactive and comprehensive guidelines, including decarbonisation targets and timelines. CAMSR will report on those specific operational details to the Board by April 2020.

We invite you to read CAMSR’s full report online.

We would like to thank the members of CAMSR for their ongoing work in this most critical area, as well as the McGill community for its important role in helping the University deepen its commitment to sustainability in all its activities. The combination of the work accomplished thus far with the recommendations approved by the Board today, reinforces our steadfast commitment to further advance the sustainability agenda across our campuses’ operations and research activities.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Ram Panda, Chair, McGill Board of Governors

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