A Movement Takes Hold

Part One of Three Parts

The TakeAway: Yesterday’s More for Mission national conference represents a giant step toward unification of portfolio investing across asset classes in pursuit of social and financial prosperity.

On Tuesday almost 150 foundation officials, investment advisors and managers, and academics from throughout the country convened at Harvard’s Kennedy School to pursue a common goal: putting investment dollars to work in ways that advance social policy and financial objectives.  The gathering, hosted by More for Mission, a project of the Initiative for Responsible Investing, included representatives from 75 foundations holding combined assets of more than $17 billion.  For decades, advocates for socially responsible investing have challenged foundations, without much success, to use “the other 95%” of their available endowment for program purposes, in keeping with their charitable mission.  But now, the collapse of our economic system, coupled with high levels of unemployment and poverty, have pushed foundations to reconsider their traditional approaches.  It’s a form of trying to do more with less.

I had the honor of attending this conference – called “More for Mission: Expanding the Field” – and came away deeply impressed by the progress made by these foundations and advocates.  One by one, they’ve moved away from mythical assumptions regarding the fiduciary role – such as those claiming that non-financial considerations have no place in investment decision-making – and toward a definition that is more holistic, robust, long-term, and pragmatic.  Among the issues addressed in panel discussions:

  • Delivering Returns Perceptions and Reality
  • Relationship with Consultants Friend or Foe?
  • Building Internal Capacity – Board and CIO Commitments
  • Innovative Products – Mission Investment Vehicles Across Asset Classes

The participants, in their presentations and comments, raised many important issues that deserve notice.  Tomorrow and Friday, we’ll take a look at some of the key insights, experiences, and puzzles emerging from the discussions, as well as implications for policy and practice.  Stay tuned!

This entry was posted in Corporate Sustainability, Sustainable Investing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.