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Queen’s advances environmental sustainability commitments, transparency in investments

Queen’s University’s Investment Committee, charged in February by the Board of Trustees with the task of acting on recommendations of the Climate Change Action Task Force (CCTAF), is putting in place an integrated strategy that will enable the University to effectively address environmental sustainability in its investments. Actions include the development of an enhanced Responsible Investing website, the establishment of new metrics to measure the carbon footprint of Queen’s investments, and a renewable energy investment allocation within the university’s endowment fund.

Queen’s is putting greater transparency at the center of its investment strategy, and has already put in place an enhanced website for the Department of Investment Services. The website provides details on the institution’s Responsible Investing policies and practices, and now includes transparency into the University’s external investment managers’ responses to annual Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) questionnaires.

“We recognize that our investment managers are doing great work in applying ESG principles,” says Jim Keohane, Chair of the Investment Committee. “As a founding signatory to Investing to Address Climate Change: A Charter for Canadian Universities, we are proud that Queen’s is leading the way in the sector on providing this level of transparency in our investments.”

Another initiative is an energy transition allocation designed to enable investment in areas which can outperform with the transition to a lower carbon economy, such as renewable energy.  This effort has been spearheaded by the Investment Committee’s Energy Transition Subcommittee (ETS), which was struck in the spring of 2020. The allocation is being developed and includes an approved US$30 million investment in renewable energy which is in the final stages of due diligence review.

“This new allocation will represent a significant investment into the world’s largest private renewable power company,” says Don Raymond, Chair of the ETS. “Queen’s sees the need for Canada to address the challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability collectively and comprehensively. Environmental sustainability practices can help mitigate climate change, and both can benefit from innovation in the use and production of energy.”

With the assistance of the Institute for Sustainable Finance at the Smith School of Business, an approach to measuring the carbon footprint of the University’s Pooled Endowment Fund is also being developed and will be used by the committee to help select a data provider for carbon measurement.

The Investment Committee’s initiatives fit well with the university’s efforts to support the International Association of Universities Global Cluster on Higher Education and Research for Sustainable Development.  They represent a step toward aligning the University’s goals and impact with those of the Global Academy, and its efforts to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane recently pointed out in his Report on the Conversation