Overall Rating Platinum - expired
Overall Score 85.05
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 5, 2020
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Cornell University
PA-9: Sustainable Investment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.76 / 4.00 Cody Danks Burke
Investment Officer
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution wish to pursue Option 1 (positive sustainability investment)?:

Total value of the investment pool:
7,334,739,380 US/Canadian $

Value of holdings in each of the following categories:
Value of Holdings
Sustainable industries (e.g. renewable energy or sustainable forestry) 101,213,317 US/Canadian $
Businesses selected for exemplary sustainability performance (e.g. using criteria specified in a sustainable investment policy) 0 US/Canadian $
Sustainability investment funds (e.g. a renewable energy or impact investment fund) 6,480,246 US/Canadian $
Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) or the equivalent 0 US/Canadian $
Socially responsible mutual funds with positive screens (or the equivalent) 0 US/Canadian $
Green revolving loan funds that are funded from the endowment 0 US/Canadian $

A brief description of the companies, funds, and/or institutions referenced above:

Sustainable Industries: Cornell is an investor in US timber lands that are certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. This category of holdings also includes investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, environmental credit creation, and clean technologies. Sustainable Investment Funds: Cornell has investments in a renewable energy fund. Additionally, about 70% of Cornell’s long term investment assets are handled by managers who are UNPRI signatories or have another strong ESG/SRI framework in place to support their investment decision-making processes. All information is as of June 30, 2019.

Percentage of the institution's investment pool in positive sustainability investments:

Does the institution wish to pursue Option 2 (investor engagement)?:

Does the institution have a publicly available sustainable investment policy?:

A copy of the sustainable investment policy:
The sustainable investment policy:

The Board of Trustees’ Investment Policy Statement (IPS) stipulates that investment decisions be made with social, environmental and similar aspects evaluated as an integral part of the financial considerations involved.

In adhering to the Board of Trustees’ IPS, Cornell formally promotes responsible investment practices by utilizing and monitoring managers who have formally adopted ESG/SRI/UNPRI/etc. considerations in their investment process. Currently, about 70% of Cornell’s long term investment assets are handled by managers who are UNPRI signatories or have another strong ESG/SRI framework in place to support their investment decision-making processes. Cornell provides a copy of its proxy voting policy to new and existing managers, annually reviews LTI managers with respect to their ESG/ SRI practices and incorporates questions into its due diligence processes (both investment and operational due diligence), among other things, which require managers to notify Cornell if compliant with UNPRI or other responsible investor networks (or frameworks), while encouraging them to consider the relevance of such networks (frameworks) if the firm is not affiliated.

Does the institution use its sustainable investment policy to select and guide investment managers?:

A brief description of how the policy is applied, including recent examples:

Cornell's policies improve its diligence of potential managers and understanding of existing managers. Recently, Cornell reviewed its managers with respect to their ESG practices, reaching out to each manager individually to request a copy of its ESG policy and a description of the ESG factors it considers in its investment process. This recurring exercise provides guidance to managers who are in the early stages of adopting a policy to help them establish a firm-wide document while reaffirming Cornell's commitment to the space.

Has the institution engaged in proxy voting, either by its CIR or other committee or through the use of guidelines, to promote sustainability during the previous three years?:

A copy of the proxy voting guidelines or proxy record:
A brief description of how managers are adhering to proxy voting guidelines:

Cornell utilizes guidance on proxy voting for both its separately managed accounts as well as guiding principles on proxy voting for its commingled vehicles. Cornell asks managers to vote proxies in a manner that maximizes the long-term sustainable economic value of the company. In the case of managers who use a proxy voting service such as ISS, managers must use their discretion and report back to the university a record of all proxies voted inconsistently with its guidelines, at Cornell’s request. Cornell retains the right to exercise voting rights with respect to any securities or assets held in an account with the manager.

Has the institution filed or co-filed one or more shareholder resolutions that address sustainability or submitted one or more letters about social or environmental responsibility to a company in which it holds investments during the previous three years?:

Examples of how the institution has engaged with corporations in its portfolio about sustainability issues during the previous three years:

Cornell has very few directly-held investments and entrusts its managers to introduce shareholder resolutions, or proposals, to portfolio companies that encourage corporate responsibility and discourage practices that are unsustainable or unethical.

Does the institution have a publicly available investment policy with negative screens?:

A brief description of the negative screens and how they have been implemented:

Under Cornell’s processes, a negative screen list derives from decisions adopted through our CIR structure. The decisions create a running/dynamic set of restrictions. As a result, Cornell has divested from seven oil companies in Sudan that were instrumental in financing genocide in the Darfur region. The University also divested its holdings in the equities of private prisons in 2016.

Approximate percentage of the endowment that the negative screens apply to:

Does the institution engage in policy advocacy by participating in investor networks and/or engage in inter-organizational collaborations to share best practices?:

A brief description of the investor networks and/or collaborations:

Cornell participates in forums and surveys to share best practices with peer academic institutions. The university also encourages managers to review the relevance of UNPRI or other ESG frameworks in their internal investment process.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.