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College to Host ESG Investment Panel

April 3, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College will host a panel discussion on Socially Responsible Investing next week as part of its ongoing commitment to foster a broad discussion about environmental and social issues and their influence on the investment policies of the endowment.

The event, on Monday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. in McCullough Student Center, will be the third open conversation on investment policies that the College has convened in the last 15 months. 

This session will bring together a group of investment experts to discuss important questions centered on how institutions can incorporate an Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) framework in their investment-selection process and how professionals evaluate fossil-fuel investments in educational and foundation endowments.

Six experts will take part on the April 7 panel:

Tom Gainey, vice president, Advisor Markets at Pax World. Gainey is responsible for developing and managing relationships with advisors in New England and northern New York State. He has been with Pax World since 1995 and has 29 years of overall investment management sales experience. Prior to joining Pax World, Gainey was Vice President at Keystone Custodian Funds for nine years.

Steven Heim, managing director and director of ESG research and shareholder engagement at Boston Common Asset Management. Boston Common specializes in sustainable and responsible global equity strategies. The firm is an active member in the Investor Network on Climate Risk and is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Heim served on the board of trustees of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group for 15 years and for 3 years was the co-chair of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s Global Warming Working Group. Heim is co-author of Disclosing the Facts: Transparency and Risk in Hydraulic Fracturing Operations that benchmarked 24 companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing. He was a founding member of the Steering Committee for U.S. Sustainable Investment Forum’s Sustainable Investment Research Analyst Network.

Jon Hill, director, real assets at Investure. Hill has worked at Investure, an outsourced investment office for endowments and foundations, since 2004. Investure manages Middlebury’s endowment. He is responsible for researching and monitoring managers focused on real estate and real assets. Prior to his current role, Hill worked as an associate focused on traditional and alternative public equity managers. Before joining Investure, he worked at Merrill Lynch. 

Stephanie R. Leighton, partner & portfolio manager, Trillium Asset Management.  Leighton has more than 25 years investment management experience including 15 years managing socially responsible institutional and individual portfolios. She is the lead portfolio manager on Trillium’s Large Cap Core and Growth and Income strategies. She also is a portfolio manager for the fossil-fuel-free Green Century Balanced fund. Leighton serves on the Indigenous Peoples Working Group of the U.S. Sustainable Investment Forum and is a past president of the New England Chapter of the Social Investment Forum.

William Page, senior vice president, Essex Investment Management. Page directs environmental investment policy and research for Essex, which manages equity portfolios for institutional clients. Prior to joining Essex in 2009, he spent 11 years at State Street Global Advisors, most recently as lead portfolio manager for Global Environmental Opportunities Strategy and head of the environmental, social and governance investment team. Page has lectured extensively on environmental investing at global investment conferences and academic institutions and is on the advisory board of the Journal of Environmental Investment, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes original research at the intersection of the environment and investing.

Akila Prabhakar, member of the Proprietary Trading and Risk Management Team at Mariner Investment Group. Mariner, which specializes in alternative asset management, is incorporating ESG principles into its investment process and has signed the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, an international network of investors working together to put responsible investment principles into practice. It is one of the few US-based hedge funds to adopt the accord. Before joining Mariner, Prabhakar served as an analyst in Credit Suisse’s hedge fund of funds group focusing on portfolio management and product delivery.

The panel will be moderated by Student Government Association President Rachel Liddell ’15.

The event will be open to the public and live-streamed at: 

http://go.middlebury.edu/stream

Middlebury also announced two other related developments:

  • The College has increased significantly the amount of its endowment specifically directed towards investments that generate long-term social, environmental, and economic value. This includes investments focused on sustainability business such as clean energy, water, climate science, and green building projects. The value of these specifically directed investments is $25 million as of February 28, 2014. This helps to fulfill a pledge made in August 2013.
  • The College has placed $150,000 of its endowment funds under the management of a subgroup of the student-run Socially Responsible Investment Club. This subgroup–Research and Investment in Social Equity or RISE–will invest in companies that meet certain environmental, social, and governance criteria. RISE will provide an annual report to the Investment Committee of the Middlebury Board of Trustees.