Green for Green: ACIR Focuses First Year on Sustainability

The ACIR makes recommendations that reflect the goals of the broader New School community, like Timon McPhearson's Environmental Studies students.

What a difference a year makes.

Since it was created in November 2009, the university’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) has made great strides in its mission to advocate for an investment portfolio that reflects values embraced by New School students, faculty, and staff. An overview of the ACIR’s inaugural-year activities appears in its annual report.

The board of trustees created the ACIR to represent the views of the New School community in leading the university’s efforts to support the kind of values in corporate board rooms that we foster in the classroom,, said Terra Lawson-Remer, ACIR committee chair and assistant professor of international affairs. We’re pleased to report that during our first year, the ACIR achieved momentum on a number of initiatives. We will continue to build on that work in 2012 and for many years to come.,

The ACIR was established by the board of trustees as a structure that would enable students, staff, and faculty to offer input on the investment of The New School’s endowment. Meeting throughout the year, the ACIR recommends ways for the university to integrate consideration of social, environmental, and corporate governance (SEG) issues, such as human rights, labor standards, environmental sustainability, equity, diversity, discrimination, and corporate governance and disclosure, into management of endowment investments.

According to Lawson-Remer, sustainability was chosen as the key SEG issue to be addressed by the ACIR during its inaugural year.

The New School community has adopted promoting sustainability as a top priority, so it made sense for our investments to reflect this green sensibility,, explained Lawson-Remer.

The ACIR developed The New School’s first-ever set of proxy voting guidelines, which offer a workable framework for the way the university’s fund managers should approach sustainability issues. The details of those guidelines are being discussed with the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, and the ACIR is optimistic that the guidelines will be finalized and implemented before the start of the fall semester.

In February, the ACIR and the Responsible Endowments Coalition hosted a national meeting of students, faculty, and trustees from across the country to study how universities can maximize the environmental and social benefits of the $350 billion in collective endowment money they must invest.

This event positioned The New School as an important presence in the conversation among universities about socially responsible investing,, said Lawson-Remer. The ACIR will continue to be part of this important national dialogue on our own campus and beyond.,

Lawson-Remer encourages the New School community to learn more about what the ACIR accomplished during its first year and to get involved in its work. You can visit the ACIR website, launched this year, and review its first annual report. Students interested in applying for the committee’s vacant student or research assistant position or in hosting events and forums related to SEG investing should fill out the Member Application Form on the website.

The ACIR exists to ensure that the diverse views of students, faculty, and staff are represented as the New School Board of Trustees works to better integrate consideration of SEG issues into management of the university’s endowment,, Lawson-Remer said. We welcome your thoughts and support.,