Best Values for Our Dollar: Socially Responsible Investment at The New School

Dan Apfel, executive director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, and Terra Lawson-Remer, assistant professor in International Affairs at The New School.

As investors struggle with on-again, off-again financial recovery, The New School’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) sees only a bull market: greater yields in sustainable development, big returns in human rights, and a windfall in social justice. In its first year, the committee embraced its pioneering role, advising the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees about social, environmental, and governance (SEG) goals that reflect the principles of The New School.

When they invest, institutions have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is,, says Chris Crews, a PhD student in Politics at The New School for Social Research and one of two student members of ACIR. “University investments can play a key role in creating positive social and environmental change beyond their financial return.,

The Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility was created as a result of The New School’s Policy and Procedures on Investment Responsibility adopted by the board in November 2009. This policy expressly recognizes that investing decisions can support the university’s core values, freedom of expression, open inquiry, and respect for the right to disagree., ACIR is charged with representing the views of students, faculty, and staff to the investment committee. At periodic meetings, ACIR reviews input from the community and makes recommendations about how the university’s investments might be directed to further SEG objectives.

The ACIR sees its work as entirely aligned with New School tradition: translating the progressive social discourse of classroom discussions into fiscal decisions that create positive change. In partnership with the Investment Committee, ACIR members explore a range of strategies to leverage investments including community investing, shareholder resolutions, proxy voting, sustainability guidelines, and impact investing.

If this has the familiar ring of The New School, it is an idea that is now gathering speed at colleges and universities across the country. On Friday, February 25, the ACIR joined the Responsible Endowments Coalition to co-host a national meeting of students, faculty, and trustees from across the United States to examine how universities can consider and improve the environmental and social effects of the more than $350 billion in collective endowment dollars they have to invest. Terra Lawson-Remer, assistant professor of International Affairs and ACIR chair, welcomed representatives from as far away as Stanford University and Colorado College, and as close as Columbia and Wesleyan. Nationwide, more than 40 universities have joined The New School in forming similar committees.
The New School is renown for its fervent commitment to social and environmental change,, Frank Barletta, senior vice president for Finance and Administration. The ACIR provides a means to harness that commitment by channeling input from across the university to guide investment decisions.,

Members of the New School community interested in learning more about the ACIR or contributing views and expectations on university investing to the committee should contact Chris Crews at or Terra Lawson-Remer at