Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Putting your money where your mouth is

“Reason #10: Finally, people simply don’t know what they don’t know.
Many staff and board members of foundations are preoccupied by their charitable giving work. They are not aware that there are other possibilities for the application of all of the assets of an endowed foundation. They don’t ask questions. And if you don’t know, how will you be encouraged to alter your behaviour? This conference is an excellent opportunity to learn about SRI. But I ask you, how many members of foundation investment committees are present?”

That was Hilary Pearson, President of the Philanthropic Foundations of Canada, speaking at the SIO conference in June 2007. Taking this need for information to heart, tomorrow sees the release of a seminal report commissioned by the Social Investment Organization and funded by Environment Canada, Education and Training on Responsible Investing for Canadian Foundations and Endowments: An Inventory and Needs Analysis.

The report outlines key considerations and themes in Responsible Investing, identifies educational and training resources and includes a resource and training needs assessment with eight recommendations for capacity building within the foundation and endowment sector.

“While much groundwork has been done by some of the early adopters and membership organizations, training opportunities are insufficient and not comprehensive, limiting RI take-up in Canada.

“Those with an interest in advancing RI – the SRI industry, federal and provincial governments, and leading members of the sector – will need to invest in building RI knowledge and training capacity in the foundation and endowment sector until we reach a tipping point.” the report states.

One such initiative comes from Community Foundations of Canada (CFC). CFC represents 171 members from coast to coast, who collectively hold more than $2.4 billion in assets. A new website is up and running, devoted to sharing its growing collection of Responsible Investment resources with foundations and other funders.

“The market turmoil of the past year has underscored the importance of finding the most effective ways to use foundation assets. Many long-term investors – including foundations – are also re-examining their investment beliefs and philosophies to take into account environmental, social and governance factors,” said Monica Patten, President and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada .

"It's important for foundations to invest their assets in a way that respects their work in social responsibility and sustainability," said Eugene Ellmen, Executive Director of the Social Investment Organization. "Donors count on it, and local communities expect it. The SIO looks forward to working collaboratively with the foundation and endowment sector, governments and RI consultants to help further the application of Responsible Investment.”

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