Since 1972, Harvard has maintained a pair of committees that together play a central role in the University’s consideration of matters of shareholder responsibility. The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) comprises twelve members: four members of the faculty, four students, and four alumni. Each year, through a series of meetings, the ACSR carefully considers a range of shareholder resolutions raising issues of corporate social responsibility, in regard to publicly traded companies in which Harvard owns shares. It formulates its recommendations in light of what is now a wide and deep body of precedent, in areas that range from human rights to environmental practices, from equal employment opportunity to corporate political contributions and beyond.
The ACSR presents its recommendations, along with its reasoning, to the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR). In light of the ACSR’s analysis of issues and consideration of precedent, the CCSR exercises the Harvard Corporation’s fiduciary duty to determine how Harvard votes on social responsibility proxies each year. The CCSR issues an extensive annual report that summarizes the ACSR’s recommendations and rationale and sets forth the CCSR’s decisions on how to vote. The most recent such report, for the academic year 2012-13, appears here.
From time to time, the CCSR also addresses questions of investment (or divestment) policy. Examples include the 1989 decision to divest from companies engaged in the manufacture of tobacco products, as well as decisions in 2005 and 2006 to divest from certain companies involved in oil production activities with the government of Sudan (which had been found to be engaging in genocide). The Statement by Harvard Corporation Committee Shareholder Responsibility Regarding Stock in PetroChina Company Limited (April 2005) endorsed the ACSR recommendation, which described the University’s policy: “The University maintains a strong presumption against divesting itself of securities for reasons unrelated to investment purposes, and against using divestment as a political tool or a ‘weapon against injustice’—not because there are not many worthy political causes or deeply troubling injustices in the world, but because the University is first and foremost an academic institution.” Occasionally, the CCSR seeks advice on such questions from the ACSR.
The CCSR comprises four members of the Corporation. The current members are:
Nannerl Keohane (chair)
The ACSR comprises four faculty, four students and four alumni. All members are appointed for two year terms; faculty and student membership is rotated among the schools, with the exception of permanent seats for one undergraduate student and one faculty member from FAS. Members for 2013-14 include:
Carliss Baldwin, ACSR Chairperson
Leslie Endres Greis
John J. West, Jr.
Committees on Shareholder Responsibility
17 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138