Investing for Mission-Driven Institutions: Balancing Fiduciary Requirements and Expressing Institutional Values

The Office of Climate and Sustainability will host a nine-session seminar series over the course of the 2023-24 academic year to bring together faculty, students, staff and others to consider key questions related to long-term investing by mission-based institutions. This includes whether and how best the fiduciary requirements associated with such investments can be balanced with interests looking to leverage investment decisions and related capital allocation to express institutional values.

Session descriptions:

  1. 9/26, 6:00-7:30pm: Initial conversation. “Whether and how best should mission driven institutions (e.g. universities, foundations, non-profits) balance their fiduciary requirements with interests in requiring investment decisions to reflect core institutional values, including sustainability and climate commitments, while meeting fiduciary obligations?” Session moderators: Tim Profeta and Brennan McDonald
  2. 10/24, 6:00-7:30pm: What is fiduciary duty? And does it apply differently for non-profit  organizations?  Does fiduciary duty differ for profit versus non-profit organizations? Session moderators: Sarah Bloom Raskin and Meera Ayyagari
  3. 1/23/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Opportunities for climate investing. Are there climate investment opportunities with high risk-adjusted returns arising from transition to clean energy? Session moderators: Ronnie Chatterji and Meera Ayyagari
  4. 2/6, 6:00-7:30pm: Definition of climate risk. What is a regulatory risk?  What is a physical risk?  How should these be incorporated into investment decisions for non-profit organizations? Session moderators: Sarah Bloom Raskin and Brennan McDonald
  5. 2/20/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Equity considerations. What is a Just Transition, and is it possible to achieve a Just Transition without disproportionately negative impact on low income and disadvantaged communities? How do mission driven institutions approach equity concerns in their investment portfolio? Session moderators: Ronnie Chatterji and Emily Nagamoto
  6. 3/5/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Regulatory considerations and stakeholder influences (the “Investment Ecosystem”) for mission-driven institution and their long-term investment programs. SEC vs. EU vs. States vs. Congress vs. Shareholder Considerations. Session moderators: Sarah Bloom Raskin and Emily Nagamoto
  7. 3/19/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Indirect investment structures (e.g. fund of funds investing). The actual investments in an indirect investment structure are not publicly disclosed in a timely way.  Should we work with other mission-driven institution to demand greater transparency in these portfolios to inform discussions of balancing fiduciary duties with values alignment in our investing?  What are our options? What are the pros and cons? Session moderators: Tim Profeta and Brennan McDonald
  8. 4/2/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Evaluation of peer institutions. How are Duke’s peer institutions managing the climate footprint of their investments? Session moderators: Ronnie Chatterji and Emily Nagamoto
  9. 4/16/24, 6:00-7:30pm: Reflect back on initial conversation. “How best can mission driven institutions (e.g. universities, foundations, non-profits) balance fiduciary obligations with interests in expressing institutional values through their long-term investments?” Session moderator: Tim Profeta

Seminar series purpose:

It is important to be clear about what this seminar series is and what it is not.  First, it is an opportunity for us to gather as an intellectual community to discuss the nuances associated with how mission driven institutions (e.g., universities, foundations, non-profits, etc.) might think about whether and how best these institutions can align their values commitments and investment decisions. Duke is an educational institution, and creating opportunities to engage in learning and discussions that help us each better formulate our perspectives on complex issues is an important role for the university to play. Second, this seminar is not a replacement for the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility. The ACIR assists the President in making recommendations to the Board of Trustees in keeping with the Board’s Guideline on Investment Responsibility. Third, this is not a decision-making body and no recommendation will be forthcoming from the participants in this seminar.  This does not preclude individuals from reaching their own conclusions and taking action, but these actions should not be seen as an endorsement from the larger group of participants and organizers of the seminar.

We hope you will join us for these conversations to advance our collective understanding of Duke’s investments.

Session moderators:

Left to right, top to bottom: Sarah Bloom Raskin (Duke Law School), Ronnie Chatterji (Fuqua School of Business) and Tim Profeta (Sanford School of Public Policy; Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability) will serve as faculty moderators for these sessions, alongside student moderators Emily Nagamoto, Brennan McDonald and Meera Ayyagari.