McGill to decrease carbon-intensity of its endowment

University to engage in divesting from highly carbon-intensive companies, including those within the fossil fuel industry

In a message issued to the McGill community last night, Principal Suzanne Fortier and Mr. Ram Panda, Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors, announced the University’s decision to decrease the overall carbon-intensity of the McGill Investment Pool (“MIP”).

“Since 2016, the University has made much progress in advancing sustainability as a key priority,” they wrote. “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.”

This week, the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) issued a report that included eight recommendations for the Board. At its meeting last night, the Board approved those recommendations.

As Principal Fortier and Mr. Panda outlined in their message, CAMSR recommends that the University:

  • Reduce the overall carbon footprint of 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.

The Board also approved CAMSR’s recommendations that the Board commit to monitoring the University’s ongoing progress with respect to socially responsible investing.

“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,” wrote the Principal and Board Chair. “All these areas work together to move our University forward.”

CAMSR’s report is the result of an October 2018 Senate resolution, in which Senate asked the Board to consider divesting the University’s endowment fund from fossil fuel holdings. The Board tasked CAMSR with studying the matter. CAMSR is a standing committee of the Board that advises on matters concerning social responsibility related to the MIP and other investments. Another Board committee, the Investment Committee, has oversight responsibility for investing the University’s endowment fund.

CAMSR’s next step is to determine an action plan, including decarbonisation targets and timelines, for how to operationalize its recommendations. The committee will report those details to the Board by April 2020.