A sustainable investment plan

A sustainable investment plan

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@Saahil Waslekar
The University Building in Lund. Photo: Jens Hunt.

Lund University’s first ever fundraising campaign, ‘For a Better World’ looks unique. An improved share of ‘green’ within the endowment would ascertain this uniqueness.

There are certain celebrations that take longer to prepare for than others. The occasion is Lund University’s sesquarcentenniary. While the celebrations are scheduled through December 2016 to January 2018, preparation towards the University’s fundraising campaign, ‘Lund University (together we can work) – for a better world’ has already begun and will continue running alongside the celebration dates.

The endowment aims to accumulate SEK 3 billion, of which SEK 2 billion is already secure through private investor partners of the University, with the objective to create new knowledge. At the moment, the endowment pie forecasts a majority allocation towards fundamental and innovative pure science challenges. Although, a network of investments towards the environment and sustainable development would make this campaign unique.

The campaign has allocated roughly SEK 64 million directly towards sustainability studies, ecosystem services and climate science. In similar light, Lund University’s belief in sustainable development made it possible to transfer (earlier this year) investments from an index fund shared with Gazprom to SEB’s Nordic Fund which includes companies that are not a direct threat to the environment. The transfer was a decision of the board of Lund University. Additionally, a force was exerted to implement the transfer thanks to student awareness which was gained significantly through articles published in Lundagard and efforts made by Fossil Free Lund University.

SEK 64 million will be used as financial assistance for Master’s to Postdoctoral students, a visiting chair, an interdisciplinary graduate school and additional climate monitoring stations. Karin Hofvendahl, Deputy Director, Development Office, the wing responsible for fundraising at Lund University, explains one of the many objectives, ‘(at Lund University) we strive to tackle the threat of climate change and we work on new ways to supply the global population with food and clean water’. The research outcome through this financial aid also aims to include a better understanding of improved crisis management through climate adaptation and green economy. Additionally, roughly SEK 10-15 million has been proposed to set up a nature centre in the Botanical Garden at Lund University.

Lund University Foundation, which houses the Development Office, aims to strengthen ties between Lund University and the United States of America. The Ivy League universities have some of the largest endowments in the world. The allocation of funds towards natural resources within Ivy League endowments in 2013, for instance, Harvard University, was 13% (agricultural land and timberland), Yale University was 7.9% (oil and gas, timberland and metals), Princeton University, share between natural resources and real estate was 23%, Columbia University was 18% (real assets), University of Pennsylvania was 3.8%, Dartmouth University was 6.2% and Cornell University in 2012-13 was 7% all for natural resources. Now, looking at the endowment allocation average for natural resources for the last three universities, Lund University could benchmark its allocation for pure green investments at 5.5% versus the current intended investment of 2.5% including the investment in the nature centre.

The campaign reaches out to private investors and donors. This should enable Lund University to achieve a 5.5% goal for pure green investments by January 2024, assuming that investment commences in 2018. Achieving this goal will forward Lund University’s principle of sustainable development on a global scale. In the interest of enabling several ‘green endowments’ by 2024, the most urgent suggestion should be highlighted first:

  • Lund University must produce its own Environmental Sustainability Report, involving students in the writing process. This will serve as a yardstick for measuring the University’s environmental impact and status of green endowments
  • Create a programme between the Departments that teach Environment and Philosophy. This will train the minds of students in a wholesome manner
  • A programme for students, by students, targeting ‘environmental mentors’. Inviting prominent speakers to interact always helps students in unimaginable ways. This is also the year when the European Spallation Source would be fully functional.
  • With three years of green student movement before itself, the University should be ready to launch a specialised ‘Green Entrepreneurship’ wing targeted at green business ideas from students with diverse subject backgrounds
  • Number of scholarships for students who wish to study Environment should substantially increase
  • Probably 2024, could be the year when a chair for environmental studies is established

The above suggestions combine contributions to the field of environment and sustainable development through education, research and business. The long term impact of such an investment would provide positive returns to the University. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org says, ‘green investments are very useful in helping us move forward, and they make good business sense’.

Ad utrumque paratus. This means, the process of achieving sustainable investment goals would require combined values of tradition and innovation at Lund University.

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