In an age where students on more than 200 campuses are petitioning their school’s trustees to invest in a more environmentally and socially conscious way, including going “fossil-fuel-free,” the proactive investment policy adoption from Becker is surprisingly unique. In 2015, the Board of Trustees mandated a 100% social impact goal for the College’s endowment. The journey to a 100% social impact investment goal was completed on June 30, 2017. Becker has taken a proactive step to becoming one of the first institutions of higher education to invest its full endowment toward positively impacting social, environmental, and economic sectors.
Like all innovations, entrepreneurial spirit brought it together. Long-term Board of Trustees member, Christopher P. Provo, President and CEO of Provo Wealth Management Group and founding member of the International Endowment Network, began including social impact in his own investment practice for investors and foundations. “We illustrated to Becker’s leadership that with their mission to solve real-world social problems, they would make an even more profound impact by aligning these values with the companies in their endowment. It was clear that responsible, sustainable investing is synonymous with stability and profitability.”
With Becker College’s 2015 launch of a new social-business center affiliated with Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, Ph.D., the opportunity for a 100-percent social impact endowment seemed a natural next step. “Becker College is emerging as one of the most innovative and socially progressive institutions of higher learning in the United States,” Dr. Yunus said of the launch of the Yunus Social Business Centre at Becker College in 2015, “guided by its focus on global citizenship education, social innovation, and personal responsibility toward advancing the various sectors of the world economy.”
Sustainability is an important component throughout curricular and co-curricular programs at Becker. With our majors in Animal Science, Pre-Vet, and Biology programs, our students come to the College with expectations that this is a priority value. Social business and community service are additional threads that prospective and current students expect to be in the Becker DNA. Becker President Dr. Nancy P. Crimmin says, “Our students today come to us with very different expectations than in years past. Higher education must provide them with opportunities that present real-world issues for them through engagement on activities and issues focused on social responsibility, sustainability, community service, and more.”
“This quantitative goal of 100-percent social impact for a college endowment is the first of its kind, and the 2017 timeline shows a true dedication and commitment of its importance,” says Georges Dyer of the Intentional Endowments Network. The Network is a coalition of 65 universities, colleges, foundations, and investment professionals that seek both net positive impact on society as well as attractive financial returns in line with fiduciary duty.
Moving forward, the College continues to utilize the expertise of R. Paul Herman, CEO of HIP Investor. Paul and his HIP team, in collaboration with Todd Wetzel and the Morgan Stanley investment team, continually review the impact ratings of the current portfolio, recommending shifts to investment funds producing “higher impact,” which links to lower future risk and higher expected returns, and how the Morgan Stanley platform could help reduce expense ratios, with separate-account managers with lower fees.
Becker’s commitment makes it possible to achieve social impact with return on investment because innovating for social impact is a core theme of the 21st century.