Northwestern University Adopts UN-Supported Principles on Responsible Investing


by Jamie Leventhal In an effort to address student concerns about climate change and fossil fuels, Northwestern’s Board of Trustees announced on Friday that it plans to adopt the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investing.

The Principles for Responsible Investing acts as both a planning tool and an accountability measure for the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues for future investments. There are six principles, which will actively encourage Northwestern trustees to review their business decisions in light of current environmental and social justice concerns, and report their use of the principles in their thought processes:

  1. We will incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.
  2. We will be active owners and incorporate ESG issues into our ownership policies and practices.
  3. We will seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues by the entities in which we invest.
  4. We will promote acceptance and implementation of the Principles within the investment industry.
  5. We will work together to enhance our effectiveness in implementing the Principles.
  6. We will each report on our activities and progress towards implementing the Principles.

“Becoming a signatory to the U.N.-supported Principles provides guidance to the external investment managers with whom we work that these are principles to consider as part of their investment strategy,” said William McLean, Northwestern’s vice president and chief investment officer, in an announcement. “It doesn’t tell them what investments they can or can’t own, but that they should take these things into consideration.”

McLean acknowledged Northwestern’s fossil fuel divestment group Fossil Free NU with bringing up the topic of socially and environmentally responsible investing. The group aims to completely divest from all fossil fuels, and although McLean has made no agreements regarding these divesments, he says that he plans on meeting with the student group in the future.

Northwestern is the third American university to adopt these principles, after Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley.

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