Queen’s discusses sustainable investment strategy

A look into how the University allocates its funds

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
Queen’s uses environmental

Queen’s Investment Committee held a Responsible Investing Town Hall to share the University’s actions across investment portfolios, which hold $1.9 billion in assets. 

Principal Patrick Deane opened the Town Hall via Zoom on April 5, praising the “considerable progress” made on various responsible investing committees. The committees were approved by the Board of Trustees in March 2022 and align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, he said.

Deane explained the commitments from the work of the the Climate Change Action Task Force (CCATF), which was developed in 2019to manage investments in alignment with sustainable development goals.

According to Queen’s first Responsible Investing Annual Report—released this year on April 5—Queen’s assesses environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in its investment approach.

“Queen’s believes that ESG factors can be material to shareholder value across industries and through time,” the report said.

The report outlines how well the University has aligned with principles and its partnerships with externalinvestment managers.

Todd Mattina, chair of the investment committee on the Board of Trustees, said Queen’s currently has four investment funds: the Short-term Fund of $316 million, Sinking Fund of $110 million, Pooled Endowment Fund (PEF) of $1,388 million and Pooled Investment Fund of $528 million.

“We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to discuss responsible investing at Queen’s […] We’re really excited to have this opportunity to try to be proactive in disclosing and being transparent about these policies, talk about how we’ve gone from policy to action,” Mattina said.

The Pooled Investment Committee oversees and recommends investment policies for the largest funds—the Pooled Endowment and Pooled Investment Funds. 

The Endowment Fund accumulates what has been donated to the University and uses them for different purposes, such as scholarships, student aid programs, funding academic chairs, and research.

The committee also oversees how external fund managers allocate the money. By working with a broad range of different external managers, Queen’s has diversified—spread out—its risk and return on the investments.

Upon its formation, the Climate Change Action Task Force—especially the Energy Transition Sub-Committee—recommended changes to the investment funds. They consulted with the  Institute of Sustainable Finance at the Smith School of Business and the Climate Charter Technical Committee, a collaboration between “like-minded” universities.

Mattina said “transparency” was at the forefront oftheir conversations.

“Transparency is a word that’s come up a number of times in the discussion, and this is something that I think is a real strong point at Queen’s—something that we value at Queen’s,” he said.

Trustee Don Raymond and a member of the investment committee clarified a major focus of the committee is on reducing carbon emissions. Their goal is to reduce Queen’s carbon footprint 25 per cent lower than the broadest current benchmark,MSCI All Country World Equity Index.

“The more the benchmark carbon footprint falls over time, the more aggressive our target becomes,” Raymond said.

The committee wants Queen’s Climate Asset Allocation (QCAA) to include investments that have “significantly lower” carbon emissions than the benchmark or invest in organizations with robust plans for achieving netzero emissions. 

“It’s early days. This is a journey. But I think the early results are encouraging so far,” Raymond said.

Queen’s carbon emission targets are “way more ambitious” than at first glance, investment committee member Kathy Matthews said when asked if Queen’s could do more.

“Our commitments have already resulted in meaningful actions and considerable progress,” Matthews said, highlighting how they’re measuring emissions against a benchmark—and as this falls, targets become more ambitious.

“There is significant work to be done to meet our 2030 targets. And you can count on us to expect similarprogress in the years to come.”

Matthews said a main ESG trend to look out for going forward is using technology—such as climate trace initiatives—as it can narrow down where emissions are coming from and track them.

“As an educational institution aimed at impact in the world, education around these issues is critical for our students, for our alumni, and for the community,” Matthews said.


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