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Harvard signs up to 'responsible investment' principles for giant fund

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Harvard University said on Monday it adopted a set of environmental and social investing principles backed by the United Nations for its huge endowment fund, a move that could add pressure on companies in its portfolio to make more disclosures on areas like carbon emissions.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard said it would sign on to the U.N-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, while at the same time reinforcing its commitment to maximizing returns on the fund, the largest endowment of any U.S. university and valued at $US32.7 billion ($35.3 billion) last June.

"After careful review of the PRI, we decided that implementing the principles put forth by this pioneering organization is a natural step for us in the evolution of our sustainable investment practices," said Jane Mendillo, president and chief executive officer of Harvard Management Co, which manages the endowment, in a statement.

"At the same time, it is consistent with our paramount focus on maximizing returns to support the mission of Harvard University," she said.

Harvard's endowment holds shares in energy companies that activists had urged be sold as a way to address climate change.

Various asset managers have already adopted the UN-backed principles including a unit of State Street Corp and Old Mutual Plc. Along with considering environmental, social and governance factors in picking stocks, signatories agree to things like urging companies they own to make more disclosures on areas like carbon emissions.

Harvard President Drew Faust last fall had rejected calls by some students and faculty to sell energy stocks but had promised more emphasis on sustainable investing. Many public-sector asset managers have also put a new focus on considering environmental, social and governance factors as part of their investment process, citing growing interest from their own clients.

Reuters

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