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April 04, 2011
2011 College Sustainability Report Card is Published
    by Robert Kropp

In its annual evaluation of the campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities with the largest endowments in the United States and Canada, the Sustainable Endowments Institute recognizes 23 as Endowment Sustainability Leaders.

In its fifth College Sustainability Report Card, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has examined the sustainability practices of colleges and universities with the 300 largest endowments in the United States and Canada, representing more than $325 billion in assets.

While six of the nine main categories addressed by the Report Card focus on the operations of colleges and universities, the importance of the investment activities of endowments can be seen in the other three categories, which seek to measure endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement.

In the category of endowment transparency, according to the Institute, "Points are awarded to schools for providing proxy voting records and lists of investment holdings to the campus community or to a wider audience," and "making this information easily accessible." The average grade for endowment transparency was a C, up slightly from the C- recorded in the 2010 Report Card.

The ten institutions receiving a grade of A for endowment transparency made lists of all holdings available to school communities, and in some cases to the general public as well.

The 57% of endowments that received a grade of A for investment priorities invest "in renewable energy funds, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), or on-campus water/energy-efficiency projects," according to the report. In 2010, 49% of endowments received an A. Nevertheless, the average grade for the category was B+, unchanged from 2010.

The weakest performances by schools were found in the category of shareholder engagement, where the average grade remained unchanged from last year's grade of D. According to the report, only "one in eight schools has an advisory committee on shareholder responsibility." Several of the leaders in the category include students on advisory committees that make proxy voting and shareowner engagement recommendations.

When the 2010 Report Card was published, Mark Orlowski, Executive Director of the Institute, told, "We're encouraged by the progress and the level of activity in the areas of endowment. At the same time we're only a small portion of the way there." In 2010, twelve colleges received average grades of A- or better in the three endowment categories, and were recognized as Endowment Sustainability Leaders. In 2011, the number increased to 23, suggesting that Orlowski's call for improvements is being heeded.

Overall, 52 schools earned recognition as College Sustainability Leaders, compared to 26 in 2010.


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