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University of California CIO calls for more socially responsible investing

updated with correction

The chief investment officer of the University of California System, Oakland, on Tuesday called for more endowments and foundations to embrace investing in initiatives to help reduce environmental effects from climate change and other socially responsible investments.

Jagdeep Singh Bachher, speaking at a conference sponsored by Principles for Responsible Investments in Berkeley, Calif., said such investing made investment sense and was necessary for the earth's sustainability. “We need to catch up,” said Mr. Bachher, noting that only a small group of endowments and foundations in the U.S. have joined PRI and are actively embracing socially responsible investing.

UC over the last year has announced it is committing more than $1 billion to various clean and alternative energy initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. Mr. Bachher said one concern of endowments and foundations might be that they lack the technical knowledge to make such investments. He urged the asset owners to join a new group formed by UC and the NZ$30 billion ($19.7 billion) New Zealand Superannuation Fund, Auckland, among other investors, to help educate institutional investors about investments related to climate change mitigation. He said that group grew out of a White House initiative in June to encourage socially responsible investing related to environmental issues.

The University of California's office of the chief investment officer manages around $90 billion for the university's endowment, pension fund and investment pools.

Maria Lettini, PRI's associate director, networks and global outreach, said only two universities in the United States — UC and Harvard University — are members of the organization. PRI, which originally was part of the United Nations, is an independent organization that encourages institutional investors to pursue socially responsible investing.