Harvard Management Company has created a new position devoted to researching and understanding sustainability issues related to the University’s $30.7 billion endowment.
The new Vice President of Sustainable Investing will also serve as HMC’s primary liasion to other University offices on environmental, social, and governance investment issues.
HMC, which oversees Harvard’s endowment, posted a job application for the new position on its website last week. The position is listed under HMC’s compliance team, which advises the Company’s investors on legal, tax, and regulatory issues.
Jane L. Mendillo, President and CEO of HMC, said in a statement to The Crimson that the creation of the position aligns with HMC’s longterm outlook.
“Given the growing conversation around sustainability and related issues on campus and across the financial sector, we wanted to develop a more integrated approach to these issues at HMC,” Mendillo said in the statement. “We are long-term investors and that means we are concerned with sustainability and stewardship. This new position will strengthen this longstanding focus at HMC.”
Although a Harvard spokesperson has said the University “operates with a strong presumption against divestment,” the push for socially responsible investment has recently gained momentum on campus. A month after College students passed a referendum in support of a social choice fund, the University announced plans in December to create such a fund separate from its existing endowment.
Two weeks ago, five students met with members of the Harvard Corporation to discuss the details of the social choice fund, and earlier this week, a referendum to seed the social choice fund with money from Harvard’s endowment passed with 93 percent support of Harvard Kennedy School student voters.
Student members of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, which was involved in coordinating the two student referendums, expressed cautious optimism about the creation of the new HMC position.
“We were in general really pleased to see that the HMC is formally considering [environmental, social, and governance issues],” said Kevin S. Wang ’16, the investments and faculty coordinator of the Coalition.
Similarly, S. Krishna Dasaratha ’13, the Coalition’s treasurer, praised the move as an “indicator” that the University is listening to a rising chorus of student concerns about Harvard’s investment.
However, Wang and Dasaratha both said that the creation of the position, which primarily entails research on sustainable investment, does not necessarily mean that Harvard will commit to adjusting its investment strategies.
In the hopes of compelling HMC to change its investment practices, Wang said, “We’re pushing for action.”
—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @NikitaKansra.
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.