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Mennonite Education Agency investment fund adopts new climate change commitments

6.22. 2020 Written By: Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Education Agency staff

Photo: MEA Investment Committee members (from left, back row) are Bart Miller, John Liechty, Barry Bartel, Linwood Rush and Aaron Ziulkowski, and (from left, front row) Susan Taylor, Chad Horning, Katie Villegas, Christine Jantz and J B Miller. Photo provided by MEA

The Investment Committee of Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) has adopted five new stewardship commitments, effective June 1, to address climate change within the pooled financial assets of the agency’s member education institutions.

The value of the MEA Investment Fund was $151.7 million on April 30 and includes financial assets of 19 institutions.

“Numerous issues prompted the current effort to increase our focus on climate change,” says Aaron Ziulkowski, chairman of the MEA Investment Committee’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) subcommittee, which crafted the position. “The sobering findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change served as a significant motivator. Further, the economic costs of climate change are becoming more obvious, paving the way for more concrete discussions about the increased investment risk of business as usual.”

The five new climate change commitments are:

  • To continue to reduce the portfolio’s contribution to climate change and the calamitous impacts rising temperatures will trigger.
  • To mitigate the portfolio’s exposure to the economic risks that climate change presents to the investment pool and to participate in investment opportunities that will benefit God’s creation.
  • To uphold the committee’s duty of care, despite high uncertainty regarding the international policy response to climate change, technological developments and adaptation efforts.
  • To take action now and in the future. The committee is currently identifying and prioritizing specific steps to ensure climate-related risks and opportunities are embedded into the assessment of portfolio risks and opportunities, manager selection and proxy voting.
  • To communicate transparently with stakeholders regarding its decision-making and to both share its perspective and listen to the concerns of its stakeholders.

The commitments support the fund’s stewardship investing core values, which articulate an intent to invest in companies that practice environmental stewardship and work toward environmental sustainability.

“The investment committee is committed to continuing to build our knowledge related to the intersection of climate change and investment management,” Ziulkowski says.

The committee actively seeks interaction with students, administrators and other investors to gain insight, Ziulkowski says, and works closely with an external investment consultant that focuses on environmental and social issues. In addition, the committee has increased its own ESG expertise with the recent additions of Chad Horning and Christine Jantz, both of whom have professional expertise with ESG investing.

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