Ahead of the Curve
We began aligning our endowment investments with our mission starting in the 1980s, decades before “impact investing”—that is, investing in companies that aim to generate social and environmental benefits along with financial returns—became a buzzword in philanthropy. We started with negative screens to divest from companies that were profiting from harm (e.g., tobacco and weapons manufacturers), expanded to proactively investing in companies that are building the better world we envision, and broadened further into shareholder activism and direct impact investments.
Today, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation takes a three-pronged approach to mission-aligned investing: screening, shareholder engagement, and impact investments. And we do it without sacrificing returns. Mission-aligned investments aim for market-rate returns comparable to non-mission-focused investments while making measurable social and environmental impacts in line with our deepest values.
Foundations invest resources by design. That means we can play a significant role in advancing the field of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing. At the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, we’ve learned a lot as pathmakers in the field, and now we’re sharing knowledge and resources with other progressive foundations to maximize our collective impact.
Our Investing Strategy
In choosing investments, we screen out companies and funds that do harm—such as those who profit from fossil fuels—and include positive-impact organizations—such as companies with fair labor practices.
We consult with our grantee partners and an investment advisor to vote on corporate decisions and introduce or support shareholder resolutions in for social justice and environmental sustainability.
We resource companies that are advancing social justice or creating solutions for environmental sustainability through our managed portfolio and other direct impact investments.
We recognize that we are fiduciaries and our fiduciary responsibility does not end with maximizing return and minimizing risk. Download our investment policy statement to learn how we align our endowment investments with our social-justice mission.
Drawn from our experience in selecting a new investment advisor in 2017, this 29-page white paper explores opportunities, challenges, and questions in the field of sustainable, responsible, and impact investing.
Photos (From top of page, L-R): Indigenous representatives march in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters in 2016.