Harvard Hires Sustainability VP After Divestment Campaign


by | Aug 1, 2013

harvardHarvard University hired Jameela Pedicini as its first vice president for sustainable investment, a position created following a student-led activist campaign demanding the school divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies.

Pedicini will be responsible for researching and understanding environmental, social and governance issues at Harvard Management Company, the university’s endowment arm that oversees more than $30 billion of assets.

Pedicini will be the subject-matter expert on current industry practices, possible partnerships related to ESG investing and on issues of interest emerging on Harvard’s campus, said Kathryn Murtagh, managing director and chief compliance officer at HMC.

She also will provide staff support to Harvard University’s Corporation Committee on Shared Responsibility and serve as a primary liaison to other offices and constituents on ESG and investor responsibility issues.

Pedicini most recently served as investment officer for global governance with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. She managed Calpers’ global peer exchange, comprised of 12 institutional investors with collective assets of $1.5 trillion, to develop sustainable investment best practices.

Students at 308 colleges and universities have launched campaigns demanding their schools divest endowment holdings from fossil fuel companies, according to 350.org, the organization behind student-led campaigns.  Activists with the Fossil Free Campaign pushing for schools to rid their endowments of investments in 200 publicly traded companies that hold the vast majority of the world’s proven oil, gas and coal reserves.

However, according to the Association of Climate Change Officers, the number of endowments and pension funds applying principles of environmental, social and corporate governance are in decline.

Universities and college endowments often have co-mingled funds within portfolios, making it difficult for schools to isolate and exclude specific investments, ACCO said in a webinar earlier this year. Costs associated with making changes to accounts also is problematic.

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