The public will gets its first look at Yale’s attempts to make ethical investing decisions within the next week, but some student activists feel more disclosure is necessary.
The Yale Corporation decided last weekend that the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility should release reports of its recent recommendations along with the broader instruction guide it follows in making its suggestions on socially responsible investing.
“This report will outline the topics we worked hard on last year and in general what kind of actions the committee took,” said School of Management professor William Goetzmann, who chairs the committee.
The eight-member advisory committee makes recommendations to the Yale Investment Office about how to invest in a socially responsible manner, including how to vote on shareholder resolutions. The investment office usually heeds the advice of the committee, and student groups have long pressured the committee to disclose more about how it makes recommendations.
“There has certainly been an interest by the committee in doing this since I’ve been doing this,” Goetzmann said. “So I think there’s been an interest in the Yale community with getting some sense of what the committee does.”
The first report, which the committee will put online this week, explains the committee’s recommendations from last year on the topics of genetic engineering, the environment and tobacco, said Daniel Stone ’01, who is the undergraduate representative on the advisory committee and a member of the Student Alliance to Reform Corporations. STARC has been leading the advocacy group for disclosure of Yale’s investing policy and decisions.
Last spring, the advisory committee held a series of public meetings, but despite earlier student protest about the closed investment policy, few students attended.
The committee states in the report to be issued that Yale has advised companies to take extra steps to ensure the safety of genetically engineered products.
“As a committee we felt that it would be our belief that corporations ought to take extra special steps to see that new genetically engineered products they were making were safe,” Goetzmann said. “Our advice was to urge corporations to try and assure themselves that their stuff was safe.”
Stone, who is the only student with a preliminary copy of the report, said he is disappointed with the committee’s stand on the environment. The committee did not endorse the CERES treaty, which lays out voluntary minimal environmental standard for companies and decided to revisit the issue in the future.
“I think that the CERES principle decision is disappointing because I think at this point it is pretty well accepted and not that radical of a proposition,” Stone said. “That’s going to be up for debate this year. In my opinion, it’s a minimal effort we can take to show these environmental issues are crucially important.”
STARC member David Corson Knowles ’03 said although the new report is a step in the right direction, more disclosure is still needed.
“We think things like that should be totally out in the open,” Corson-Knowles said. “Optimally Yale would disclose how its votes on every stockholder resolution that comes before it.”
Yale President Richard Levin could not be reached for comment.