Money and Morals at HMC

A year of protests and conflicts reveals the divergent conceptions of responsible investment at Harvard

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Year in Review - Divestment: Argentina Protest
Students advocating for responsible investment tactics protest on the steps of Widener Library.

But ACSR, which consists of four students, four faculty members, and four alumni, serves in merely an advisory role. The oversight process was designed so that the ACSR reports to the four members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, who sit on the CCSR, and that the CCSR wields ultimate authority over any divestment decisions.

In recent years, however, the ACSR’s influence over the endowment seems to have further diminished. Public equities have decreased from 58 to 33 percent of the portfolio since 1995, and the CCSR has voted on fewer and fewer resolutions, dropping from 157 votes in 2004 to 56 in 2013, according to the 2012-2013 CCSR annual report.

As frustration with HMC’s institutional mechanisms for incorporating student input has mounted, HMC leadership has addressed the responsible investment movement with an approach that is subtly but nonetheless fundamentally distinct from the thought process of student activists.

While HMC, like the student activists who criticize it, has stressed the importance of ESG factors in its decision-making processes, in focusing on long-term profitability instead of values, it has framed this importance  in a different light than those students.

“A lot of values talk is being buried into a business case frame,” Wood says. “There are places when [ESG and profit] overlap, but also, it’s just a more comfortable frame to have this investment discussion.”

—Staff writer Christine Y. Cahill can be reached at christine.cahill@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cycahill16.

—Staff writer Sonali Y. Salgado can be reached at sonali.salgado@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @SonaliSalgado16.

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