York has joined a coalition of other universities across Canada in the University Network for Investor Engagement (UNIE), through which they aim to push North American corporations in their investment portfolios to recognize the risks of the climate crisis. The universities plan to mobilize their joint impact to advocate in sectors including finance, transportation, energy and utilities, and manufacturing.
“York is committed to responsible investing that expands our current sustainable investment strategy, which integrates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in the overall financial management of our investment portfolios,” says Yanni Dagonas, deputy spokesperson for York Media Relations.
“That is why we have joined the University Network for Investor Engagement (UNIE), an initiative with the Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) and other Canadian universities.”
As for what York hopes to achieve with the brand new UNIE, Dagonas says they aim to “engage Canadian and U.S. publicly listed companies on climate change risks and discuss potential solutions through sustainable investments.”
SHARE is a nonprofit organization that focuses on responsible investing. The organization professes to create a network of investors that collectively push for increased corporate sustainability and better rules and regulations in capital markets.
UNIE represents a new version of this investor network specifically with universities — by combining the weight of universities’ endowments and pension portfolios, they hope to influence the environmental impacts of the corporations these universities invest in.
“These universities are showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis,” stated Kevin Thomas, CEO of SHARE. “Acting as investors, Canadian university pension plans and endowments can have a powerful influence on corporate behavior.”
The initiative has been in the works since 2020, and finally came to fruition in late February. So far, 10 Canadian universities have joined the coalition, including the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation and McMaster University. It remains open to new membership, and current member universities are stressing the importance of UNIE’s goals.
“Universities have a vital role to play in the fight against climate change, through our teaching, research, operations, and investments,” stated UofT President Meric Gertler.
Dagonas provides context as to what exactly York and other universities will be doing in the upcoming months as UNIE sets out on its mission:
“Along with all partner institutions, York will be represented on the SHARE advisory board of volunteers,” he says. “The goal will be to find ways to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy in key sectors where advocacy can make the biggest difference, including energy, utilities, finance, transportation, and manufacturing, while accounting for the impacts on workers and communities.”
Dagonas adds that he believes UNIE is just one of several organizations York has joined in the hopes of addressing the climate crisis.
“We believe that joining this new network strengthens our commitment to investing sustainably and builds upon the university’s membership in the Responsible Investment Association, the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, and the Carbon Disclosure Project,” he concludes.