McGill to accelerate reduction of investment carbon footprint

The Board of Governors has approved a series of measures and timelines to accelerate the responsible decarbonisation of the McGill Investment Pool, including removing investments from highly carbon intensive companies.

At its meeting today, April 23, 2020, McGill University’s Board of Governors approved a series of impactful measures and timelines designed to accelerate the responsible decarbonisation of the McGill Investment Pool (MIP), a collection of more than 60 investment mandates and fund investments. These measures were recommended by the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) to the University’s Board of Governors last week to operationalize the carbon footprint reduction of its endowment investments.

“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,” wrote Principal Suzanne Fortier and Board Chair Ram Panda in a message to the community.

The implementation plan focuses on eight areas: decarbonisation, impact investing, screening, engagement, ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) integration, annual reporting, SRI (socially responsible investment) review, and institutional leadership.

McGill will remove investments from highly carbon intensive companies, in particular those in the fossil fuel industry, cement and steel producers, and coal and gas-fired power plants. This aggressive approach will translate in a 33 per cent reduction of carbon emissions of the University’s endowment public equity portfolio, relative to the MIP public equities benchmark. Based on the portfolio’s value as of September 30, 2019, these measures call for a reduction of its carbon emissions by 38 tons of CO2 per million dollars invested annually, compared to the 18-ton reduction from eliminating investments in the Carbon Underground 200™. This will curtail carbon emissions by more than twice what would be otherwise achieved by eliminating investments in the Carbon Underground 200™ alone.

The measures also call for a substantial increase in the portfolio’s impact investments by committing over $75 million of the MIP to renewable energy, clean technologies, energy efficiency, green building, pollution prevention, sustainable water and other low-carbon funds.

CAMSR’s full report is available online.

“By removing investments from highly carbon intensive companies, deepening our impact investments, and increasing the number of fund managers who practice socially responsible investing, McGill is taking impactful action to transition to more sustainable and environmentally conscious practices,” said Principal Fortier. “I would like to reiterate and thank the McGill community for its important role in helping the University strengthen its commitment to sustainability in all its activities.”

Comments on “McGill to accelerate reduction of investment carbon footprint”

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    Chris Brodeur BA'72, Dipl Northern Studies '80

    As a former McGill student and Montreal resident I am dismayed at the Board of Governors decision to accelerate reduction of its carbon footprint investments. As a current resident of Calgary, via many years in the NWT, I find it discouraging that McGill is choosing to further damage Alberta’s economy at a time when the province is already struggling with major economic issues. For many years Alberta was the economic engine of not only Alberta but all of Canada. As such it contributed hugely to Quebec, which couldn’t balance its own budget, and relied on transfer payments from Canada (mostly funded by Alberta for years) to fund cheap childcare among other things while still running huge deficits.
    When Alberta’s oil industry wanted to build the Energy East Pipeline which would have reduced the east’s reliance on foreign energy with Canadian energy, it was socially unacceptable to Quebec’s premier (and apparently many others in Quebec presumably including McGill). I am told, however, that oil still drives large sectors, of even Quebec’s economy including the airline industry and automobiles (which apparently are not yet all green) among other sectors of the economy. (And I suspect even some of your Board still drive gas guzzling automobiles). Quebec still prefers to transport oil by train (not withstanding Lac Megantic) and tanker up the beluga whale threatened St Lawrence (while tankers are being banned of the west coast).

    Further those in the carbon intensive industry (ie the oil industry) are actually in the energy industry writ large. It is these very companies, if they remain well capitalized, which will and are leading the way to a greener energy future. It is not productive to be hurting them when they need to capital to do the R&M to develop that green energy future.

    McGill is second to none as an educational institution in the world and many look to McGill for leadership in all things social as well as educational. So it is dismaying to me that it is taking this direction which will hurt a particular region of Canada at a time when we should all be pulling together as a country.

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