Wellesley College strives to be a responsible investor.
The Wellesley College Board of Trustees is responsible for the investment of the College's Endowment. In the discharge of its fiduciary duty, the Board is mindful of the role that endowment returns play in the College's accomplishment of its own socially significant mission. The Board is committed to investing in a manner consistent with the College's mission, values and principles. To that end, the College invests only with managers who meet high ethical, investment, operational and performance standards.
Fossil Fuel Investments
In the spring of 2021, the Board of Trustees affirmed an Investment Committee decision to prohibit commitments to private equity funds devoted to oil and gas investments. No commitments to such funds have been made since 2017. Exposure to fossil fuel investments is expected to decline over the next several years as existing investments fully liquidate.
On June 30, 2021, the portfolio’s exposure to fossil fuels was 2.9%, down from 3.7% a year earlier. During FY21, the value of the portfolio’s fossil fuel exposure increased to $94.5 million from $84.7 million the year before as the value of private equity oil and gas interests recovered. Despite this increase, exposure as a percent of the portfolio fell as managers’ holding of public equity declined and other parts of the portfolio outperformed energy.
Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility
The Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility (SIR), is composed of Trustees, faculty, staff, and students and is responsible for proxy voting and making recommendations to the Investment Committee related to shareholder responsibility. Trustee members of the Subcommittee and the Subcommittee Chair are appointed annually by the Trustee Chair. Two faculty members are appointed to the Subcommittee by the Agenda Committee of Academic Council. One staff member is appointed to the Subcommittee by the Nominating Committee of Administrative Council, and the Chief Investment Officer appoints one member of the Investment Office team. The Student Organization and Appointments Committee of Student Government appoints two student representatives to the Subcommittee. In all cases, the groups responsible for appointing representatives are asked to make two-year appointments, on a staggered basis where the group is responsible for appointing multiple representatives, to maintain continuity in Subcommittee discussions.
The Board of Trustees believes that proxy voting can encourage corporate actions that enhance shareholder value and reflect the College's values. Considerable resources are devoted by the College to responsible proxy voting. The Subcommittee on Investment Responsibility (SIR), comprised of trustees, students, faculty and staff, sets the College's proxy voting policy and votes any proposals that are not covered by the policy. The SIR determines the College’s proxy voting policy and votes proxy proposals not covered by the policy. It reviews and amends the proxy voting policy annually. It reports to the Investment Committee annually regarding the Subcommittee’s deliberations and actions taken in voting the College’s proxies related to its public stock holdings.
Endowment Policy Actions
From time to time College community members may request that the Board invest endowment assets in a way that expresses specific social values. The SIR evaluates these requests and may decide to recommend action to the Investment Committee. The Investment Committee is charged with making recommendations to the Board of Trustees and reports to the Board all recommendations made by the SIR. The SIR also may make recommendations directly to the Investment Committee on issues that are raised by Subcommittee members.