Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 58.08
Liaison Kristi Wiedemann
Submission Date March 13, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Princeton University
PA-14: Sustainable Investment

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 1.68 / 4.00 Susan Butler
Senior Analyst
Princeton University Investment Company
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Total value of the investment pool:
20,600,000,000 US/Canadian $

Value of holdings in each of the following categories::
Value of Holdings
Sustainable industries (e.g. renewable energy or sustainable forestry) 372,000,000 US/Canadian $
Businesses selected for exemplary sustainability performance (e.g. using criteria specified in a sustainable investment policy) 291,000,000 US/Canadian $
Sustainability investment funds (e.g. a renewable energy or impact investment fund) 422,000,000 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:

The University’s holdings referenced above roughly comprise sustainably grown timber, renewable energy, and clean-tech assets, as well as holdings in certain industries such as waste management and water treatment. The $372 million represents the value of Princeton’s holdings in sustainable assets which have been acquired outside of funds focused solely on sustainable investments, while the $422 million represents the value of Princeton’s holdings in such funds. The $291 million invested in businesses selected for exemplary sustainability performance primarily comprises LEED-certified real estate investments.

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

A copy of the sustainable investment policy:

The sustainable investment policy:

The fundamental goal of the University’s investment strategy is, and has been, “to maximize the total long-term return on investments” in order to support the University’s core mission of teaching and research. However, the guidelines reflect the Trustees’ belief that it is appropriate to consider investment-driven social responsibility issues in certain limited circumstances. While these guidelines were designed with investment issues in mind, the introduction to the guidelines suggests that they “can be applied more generally in order to help us consider other kinds of social responsibility issues more efficiently.”

The guidelines state clearly: “There is a strong presumption against the University taking a political position or playing an active role with respect to external issues of a political, social, or moral character.” The Resources Committee has the responsibility to determine when the strong presumption not to take a position regarding issues of broader social concern must be tempered by other considerations. The 1997 guidelines contain criteria for considering exemptions from the presumption and reflect the view that exceptions from maximizing return should be considered in limited circumstances.

The key criterion is that there be “considerable, thoughtful, and sustained campus interest” and note that the appropriate level of interest may require repeated raising of the issue over an extended period of time.” The Resources Committee must also consider the “magnitude, scope, and representativeness of campus opinions.” A link to the guidelines and criteria for considering exemptions can be found below.

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:

When the Resources Committee, based on the guidelines outlined above and linked below, decides that it is necessary to place a social or environmental overlay on investment decisions, it makes a recommendation to the University’s Trustees. Upon approval by the Trustees, PRINCO makes any necessary changes to its small amount of direct holdings and communicates the restriction to its external managers.

The most recent example of such a scenario is the Endowment’s divestment from Sudan. In the fall of 2005, the Resources Committee turned its attention to Sudan and conducted a thorough review of the political and economic climate in Sudan, as well as actions taken by other institutions. The Committee found that action by Princeton regarding current or contemplated investment in selected companies conducting business in Sudan was necessary. Ultimately, the Resources Committee proposed that the University divest from assets directly held in any company actively conducting operations in Sudan that supports acts of genocide or renders assistance to perpetrators of genocide. For any such companies held directly by the Endowment, the Committee recommended that the University first engage these companies in dialogue and divest if those efforts failed. For Princeton’s external managers, the Committee recommended that PRINCO request a report on ownership of these companies, suggest that the managers give careful consideration to Princeton’s concerns, and ask for comments on Princeton’s decision. In June 2006, the University’s Board of Trustees adopted this policy of disassociation.

Does the institution's sustainable investment policy include negative screens?:

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

As described above, the Endowment has maintained a negative screen against assets directly held in any company directly or indirectly involved in genocide in Sudan since 2006. PRINCO has avoided any direct involvement in such companies and has advised its investment managers of Princeton’s standards and concerns. In addition, PRINCO has directed the manager of a fund that targets resource-related public equities to exclude companies with the lowest MSCI ESG rating (CCC).

100% of the Endowment is subject to the negative screen related to Sudan. 0.4% of the Endowment is subject to the negative screen related to MSCI ESG ratings.

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

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:

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:

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

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

Princeton participates in regular email surveys, in which various schools provide updates on ESG issues being considered at their respective institutions, and investment staff has recently begun attending small group sessions with other endowments to discuss varying approaches to ESG issues. Investment staff also attends the College and University Consortium on Investor Responsibility, held annually by Harvard.

The website URL where information about the institution's sustainable investment efforts is available:

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 and complete the Data Inquiry Form.