Impact Investment Advisory Group
In June 2022, with approval from the Board of Trustees, the Impact Investment Advisory Group succeeded the Impact Investment Platform Sub-Committee. The advisory group was created to provide support and advice to the Investment Committee to further promote the Impact Investment Platform in the endowment. In addition, the advisory group offers a rich learning opportunity for Oberlin students in various cocurricular programs and academic projects, and provides working experience related to endowment management and impact investing to students who pursue careers in finance, business, and sustainability.
While the endowment never directly invests in businesses that explore for or develop reserves of fossil fuels, the endowment has legacy private energy investments that are indirectly invested in the fossil fuel industry. These legacy private energy investments peaked at 5 percent of the endowment in 2015. With guidance and support from the Board of Trustees and the Investment Committee, the endowment has stopped making new commitments to these private energy investments and has no intention to change this decision. As of June 2022, indirect exposure to private energy investments in the endowment was approximately 1 percent, and these are currently in the runoff stage.
The board has adopted a divestment policy that provides an avenue through which Oberlin students, employees, and alumni may bring forth concerns regarding endowment portfolio holdings.
After much discourse, the adopted policy states that, in accordance with Oberlin’s history of action in response to “instances of human suffering, natural calamity, and injustice,” the board will consider proposals for divestment from entities that contribute to activities that “shock the conscience.”
The board will consider a divestment proposal if it meets three conditions. The proposal must show that:
- the investment supports activities that materially contribute to conditions that shock the conscience;
- divestment is likely to have significant financial, reputational, or other adverse effects on the target of the divestment that may influence its behavior or the behavior of other similarly situated entities; and
- the proposed divestment will be generally understood by and acceptable to the greater Oberlin community, based on the board’s best understanding of the community’s opinion.
Any Oberlin student, employee, or alum may submit a proposal for divestment to the Investment Office. The proposal should include the names of each person involved in submitting the proposal, the date of the proposal, and a written explanation of how the proposal adheres to the conditions for divestment.
Each proposal will be reviewed by the Investment Committee in consultation with the vice president, general counsel, and secretary to determine whether the proposal contains all the required elements and whether additional information is necessary for the board to consider the proposal; all proposals that meet the required criteria will be routed through the appropriate board committees for further evaluation. Final decisions will be rendered by the full board.
- Who can submit a divestment proposal?
Any Oberlin College student, employee, or alum may submit a divestment proposal.
- Where should a divestment proposal be submitted?
All divestment proposals should be submitted via email to the Investment Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Which information should a divestment proposal include?
All divestment proposals should be in writing and should include the following information:
- The names of all individuals submitting the proposal
- The date of the proposal
- A narrative statement explaining how the proposal fulfills the conditions for divestment identified in the Oberlin Board of Trustees’ June 13, 2014, Resolution for Divestment
- How will divestment proposals be reviewed?
Initially, the investment office, in consultation with the Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, will determine whether a proposal contains all the elements listed above and whether additional information is necessary for the board to consider the proposal.
Once that review is complete, the investment office will forward the proposal to the board for consideration. First, the board’s executive committee will conduct a threshold review. The executive committee will consider whether and how the proposal fulfills the conditions for divestment in the resolution; the board’s moral, legal, and fiduciary responsibilities; and any other relevant criteria. Based on that evaluation, the executive committee may a) recommend that the board decline the proposal; b) invite the investment committee to provide information regarding the potential impact of the proposed investment on Oberlin’s endowment; or c) take any other action consistent with its authority under the institution’s bylaws.
The Investment Office, with the input of the Vice President, General Counsel and Scretary as necessary, compiles the executive committee’s recommendation, together with any information from the investment committee, and forwards the recommendation to the board for its consideration as outlined in the resolution. The board then delivers its decision in writing to the individual(s) submitting the proposal.