Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.33
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 1, 2024

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
PA-10: Sustainable Investment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.75 / 5.00 Marin Jankovic
Senior Investment Analyst
Investment Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total value of the investment pool:
10,035,557,521 US/Canadian $

Value of holdings in each of the following categories:
Value of holdings
Sustainable industries (e.g., renewable energy or sustainable forestry) 99,385,286 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) 201,219,916 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 funds funded from the endowment 0 US/Canadian $

A brief description of the companies, funds, and/or institutions referenced above:
Sustainable Industries: This includes any investment directly in an entire industry sector as well as holdings of companies whose entire business is sustainable. Cornell is an investor in U.S. timberlands 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: This includes funds with a mission focused on investing in sustainable sectors or industries, as well as any funds that are focused on purchasing bonds with sustainable goals. As part of the aforementioned fossil fuel moratorium, Cornell initiated a search for sustainable investment funds. That search has culminated in four funds, thus far, that seek to benefit from a transition to a lower carbon economy. The first fund invests in carbon allowances and is long companies aligned with the energy transition and is short carbon-intensive companies. The second fund seeks to capitalize on and support the highly material-intensive energy transition through investments in industrial metals critical to the carbon energy transition (e.g., copper, nickel, etc.). The third fund seeks to make impact investments and utilize stakeholder activism to achieve positive environmental and social change in eight impact areas inspired by the UN sustainable development goals including climate change mitigation, biodiversity preservation, and sustainable food, agriculture, and land use. Finally, the fourth fund invests in platforms and companies focused on renewable energy generation and storage, distributed energy resources and energy efficiency, renewable fuels, and electrification infrastructure. These funds join an existing lineup of sustainability-focused funds that Cornell has been a longstanding investor in. Additionally, about 83.8% 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, 2023.

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

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 83.8% 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 sustainable investment policy is applied:
Cornell's policies improve its diligence of potential managers and understanding of existing managers. Cornell reviews its managers annually 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 of investment managers while they are engaged in a contractual relationship with Cornell’s Investment Office. 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. If the Investment Office suspects (based on a manager review meeting, conversations with knowledgeable professionals, press reports, etc.) that a manager is violating the proxy voting requirements, Cornell would act on its right to vote proxies directly.

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:
Because Cornell has very few directly-held investments, it provides its investment managers latitude to engage corporations in its portfolio—including the ability, among others, to introduce shareholder resolutions or proposals to portfolio companies that encourage corporate responsibility and discourage practices that are unsustainable or unethical. Moreover, in recent years, OUI has undertaken two large initiatives with our managers on environmental and social issues. The first initiative promoted the adoption of responsible investment principles (as outlined by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment) and the second initiative emphasized the value Cornell places on diversity and inclusion (values that are fully consistent with our institution's founding principles and current practices). Through these initiatives, we expect our managers to aid in advancing these issues through their investment practices and through their engagement with portfolio companies.

Does the institution participate in a public divestment effort and/or have a publicly available investment policy with negative screens?:

A brief description of the divestment effort or negative screens and how they have been implemented:
Cornell’s negative screening and divestment efforts encompass both pooled funds and separately managed accounts. 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. Most recently, Cornell instituted a moratorium on new private investments focused on fossil fuels. This moratorium increases the list of prohibited investments, which currently also includes several oil companies in Sudan that were instrumental in financing genocide in the Darfur region, and previously included various holdings in the equities of private prisons. Cornell banned investments in the Sudanese oil companies in 2006 and divested from private prisons in 2016. When Cornell banned investments in Sudanese oil companies, letters were sent to all of its managers, and a similar process and review occurred at the time of divestment from private prisons. Restrictions on investments in private prisons currently remain in place with certain relevant accounts.

Approximate percentage of endowment that the divestment effort and/or 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.

Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable investment efforts 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.