New Case Study Details Hampshire College’s Mission-Based Endowment Investing

Hampshire is widely known for aligning endowment investing with issues of social responsibility and justice: It was the first college to divest from South Africa, in 1976, and in 2011 was the first to divest from fossil fuels. The College divested from weapons contractors in 1982 and in 2015 published a list of disfavored industries that included private prisons.  

Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) is a Boston-based nonprofit advancing intentionally designed endowments, those that seek to improve financial performance by aligning with institutional mission, values, and sustainability goals.
Available for free from the organization’s website, the case study details Hampshire’s decision making in developing its endowment-investment policy, as it has responded to challenges and identified and accomplished goals in line with its values.

The study also reports the College’s latest results practicing mission-based investing: “In the 5-year period ending June 30, 2017,” it says, “the portfolio’s annualized return broadly exceeded its Policy Indices, as well as a 70/30 Global stock/bond benchmark.”


As described in the report, Hampshire established its first official investment policy in 1977, then adopted a more comprehensive, socially responsible investment policy in 1982 (updated in 1994).  The case study describes how Hampshire developed its investment policies not only through proactive decisions by College leaders but also by way of student engagement. Students helped spur its divestment from South Africa and from weapons contractors.

In 2011, the College’s trustees developed and approved a thorough, mission-based policy, recognizing the benefits Hampshire derives from its status as a nonprofit institution. “Hampshire acknowledges that nonprofits have a duty to serve the public —a quid pro quo for tax-favored status,” according to the study. “This trade-off strongly suggested to the Board that all of the college’s actions should be aligned with its mission. This includes how it sources its food, qualifies and admits its students, and how it invests its endowment.”

Since 2011, Hampshire has maintained what it calls its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Policy to manage its investments using positive screens—a strategy of choosing investments based on attributes aligned with its values— rather than using negative screens.

Said David Dinerman, who was a trustee and chair of the Investment Committee during the enactment of the policy, “The policy requires the college to favor investments that do right by the environment, employees and supply chains, and are governed with transparency and fairness.”

In 2014 and 2015, the student group Decolonize Media Collective raised concerns about whether Hampshire was investing in private prisons. The College’s subsequent review of investments revealed none, but the students’ concerns prompted the board to publish a list of disfavored industries, such as:

·      Fossil fuel/carbon producers and related businesses

·      The weapons and firearms industry

·      The private-prison industry and related businesses

The College decided that as an educational institution, it could best align with its mission by becoming fully open regarding its endowment investments. To that end, it began publishing its individual securities holdings to the campus community on a quarterly basis.

In recent years, students on major campuses nationwide have been campaigning for their colleges to divest from fossil fuels, hoping to force action on climate change. In a recent Huffington Post blog on the topic, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash and Trustee Dick Hurd, of Mayo Capital Partners, who is now the chair of Hampshire’s Investment Committee, wrote, “Too often the first response of administrators and trustees in rejecting divestment is, investment decisions must be made solely on financial considerations and never subject to moral and political questions. That argument — making money is too important to allow talk of morality, social well-being, or the future of the students for whom the institution exists — is discordant for a mission-driven institution. Organizations can align their investment strategy with their educational and social mission without forfeiting financial returns.”


The Hampshire College report is part of a series of publications from the Intentional Endowments Network, which operates a national organization of endowment managers and publishes free white papers, briefing documents, and other reports. The first in-depth look at one institution’s approach, this case study contains data on the financial performance of Hampshire’s portfolio and a breakdown of participating investment managers, as the College has worked diligently to partner with those with complementary business practices.

“Hampshire College is truly a leader among endowments with regard to sustainable investing, since its inception, as concepts of social responsibility and mission-alignment have been a focus of its investment process,” said Georges Dyer, cofounder and principal of Intentional Endowments Network. “Their commitment to transparency and willingness to share insights on the process and progress to date is a great contribution to our field."

There’s an accelerating trend toward ESG investing among private investors nationwide, and Intentional Endowments Network has published The Business Case for ESG Investing, which cites data from successful financial firms showing that this type of investing performs comparably to other forms. It also publish a series of high-level “snapshots” highlighting sustainable investing strategies for several college and university endowments.

Hampshire College is a founding member of the Intentional Endowments Network, currently comprising more than 125 members spanning educational institutions, foundations, nonprofit organizations, investment managers, consultants, and individuals.

About the Intentional Endowments Network

The Intentional Endowments Network is a non-profit, peer-learning network advancing intentionally designed endowments – those that seek to enhance financial performance by aligning with institutional mission, values, and sustainability goals.  Working closely with leading organizations the network engages leaders and key stakeholders from higher education, foundations, business, and non-profits. It provides opportunities for learning and education, peer networking, convening, thought leadership and information exchange around a variety of strategies (e.g., ESG integration, impact investing, and shareholder engagement). The Intentional Endowments Network facilitates a sharing of knowledge through publications, events, webinars, working groups, and more.