Canadian universities unite as investors to help address the climate crisis

UNIE is a corporate engagement program for university endowments and pension plans, leveraging their power as institutional investors to meaningfully address climate change-related risks.

In partnership with SHARE, UNIE engages companies in the investment portfolios of participating universities. Our engagements focus on accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy in key sectors where advocacy can make the biggest differenceincluding energy, utilities, finance, transportation and manufacturing. 

“These universities are showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis. Acting as investors, Canadian university pension plans and endowments can have a powerful influence on corporate behavior. Working together in one program amplifies each institution’s voice and leverages their power to bring about change. We invite the rest of the university community to join us.”

– Kevin Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, SHARE

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Learn more about SHARE’s engagement services.

Current University Partners

Frequently Asked Questions

What is UNIE’s approach to climate change?

On behalf of UNIE members, SHARE will engage companies across multiple sectors to:

  • Reduce emissions in line with Paris commitments
  • Shift lending and capital expenditures to reduce financed emissions
  • Implement responsible climate lobbying policies and practices
  • Incorporate climate risk in business strategy and board oversight
  • Work towards a just transition that doesn’t leave workers or communities behind

We will set and communicate company-specific objectives over time and evaluate progress against these goals. We will review progress and recalibrate our engagement priorities annually.

Is SHARE opposed to divestment?

Divestment is a legitimate investor decision, whether of an individual holding, asset class, region or sector. But the magnitude of the climate crisis is immense: it is not limited to one sector of the economy, and no investment portfolio is immune to the effects of climate change. It is an “un-hedgeable risk” and no one investment strategy will fix the problem on its own.

Whether or not a university endowment or pension fund chooses to reduce or eliminate its exposure to fossil fuel producers, active ownership plays a significant role in a comprehensive response to climate change, aligned with the Paris Agreement. Shareholder engagement is a demonstrated strategy that gets results. Investor engagement is one form of pressure that asset owners can exert to bring about the changes we need industry to make.

Companies in all sectors of the Canadian economy – not just the oil and gas sector – need to reduce their emissions and work towards the transition. Through our work, we engage a broad swath of the highest-emissions companies to reduce actual emissions – not just to remove the link to the university’s portfolio.

Doesn’t engagement let companies off the hook?

Our engagement is focused on measurable goals and objectives, not just talk. Our goal is to reduce GHG emissions and accelerate Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Reduced emissions, meaningful climate policies, limits on negative lobbying and contributing to a just transition are the measures of success.

We report out to our participants on progress – or lack thereof by all of the companies we engage, and fine-tune our engagement approach accordingly.

What do you do if a company doesn’t engage, or doesn’t ever change?

We have multiple tools to help move a company to change, but there still may be some times, some companies, and some issues where investor engagement does not succeed.

It’s up to SHARE to track whether we’re reaching our engagement goals. It’s up to UNIE members collectively to decide when and where engagement should continue, and ultimately it’s up to individual university decision-makers to choose whether or not to continue holding a particular company in the portfolio.

Why does UNIE only focus on climate change? What about other important issues that should concern our institutions – like decent work, or Indigenous rights & reconciliation?

SHARE’s mission is to promote a sustainable, inclusive, and productive economy. This means addressing the pressing issues of our time simultaneously: the climate crisis; wealth and income inequality, human rights, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The UNIE program, for now, is focused on the climate crisis, but we recognize that there are links to other issues, and some universities are working with SHARE on a broader engagement program as well.  All UNIE members are welcome to join our broader engagement program at any time.

Which companies do you engage with?

We engage with companies in multiple sectors across the economy because we recognize that in order to decarbonize, companies across the economy need to reduce their emissions. Our engagement on behalf of UNIE clients takes place with publicly-traded companies in Canada and across North America, that are held in participating university portfolios.

Who can participate?

Any Canadian university pension plan, foundation or endowment can participate.

How will you report to the public?

SHARE will prepare regular analysis and commentary on engagement activities and outcomes that will help campus and community stakeholders track our progress.

What is SHARE’s track record?

SHARE brings together a wide range of institutional investors – pension plans, foundations, endowments, faith-based organizations, asset managers and others – in a common program intended not only to benefit each participant’s portfolio but also to build a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy that benefits us all.

SHARE has a 20-year history of achievements related to climate change, human rights, decent work, Indigenous rights, diversity, equity and inclusion, and corporate governance. Companies we have engaged have set ambitious climate targets, exited toxic trade associations that lobby against environmental regulations, committed to measuring financed emissions, and brought a climate change lens into business strategy.

Not only has SHARE contributed to company-level changes, we also bring together investors to advocate for regulatory and legislative changes that embed environmental and social compliance in the rules governing capital markets and corporate behaviour, and we have helped countless institutions re-think how they approach investment through our research and consulting activities.