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Lane Lyceum, Jan 19: Tim Brennan on Responsible Investing in an Age of Polarization

by | Dec 13, 2020

Tim Brennan served as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of the Unitarian Universalist Association from 2006 to 2019. Tim is a member of First Parish, now living in Vermont.

The link to the recording of this Lyceum is Tim’s presentation is available here.

The Responsible Investment movement is growing rapidly and becoming part of the mainstream investing world. Just a few weeks ago the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing issued their biannual Trends Report, which showed that assets that are managed incorporating Environmental, Social and Governance factors, not just financial information, grew from $12 trillion in 2018 to $17 trillion today. This now accounts for fully 33% of assets under management in the US. Meanwhile corporate interests and the Trump Administration have been pushing back with new rules designed to undercut this growth, but the shift now feels inevitable.

There are many aspects of responsible investing including stock screening, proxy voting, shareholder engagement, and community investing. In the upcoming Lyceum, Tim will discuss the latter two.

Shareholder engagement. Owning shares in a company not only gives a right to a share of the profits, it also gives the shareowner a voice in the governance in the company. Every shareholder has the right to attend the annual meeting and vote on certain issues described in the proxy statement. Shareholders also have the right to put issues on the proxy for consideration at the meeting. Over the last several years, shareholders have exerted increasing influence over corporate policies, even when their proposals receive less than majority support. Tim will give you a few stories showing how this works.

Community investing. Community investments, usually debt instruments, provide capital to members of our society that do not have access to such financial resources, particularly communities of color. Examples include community housing funds and microlending groups around the world. Tim will describe a few and provide some examples.

And, of course, there will be plenty of time for questions.

About Tim

Tim Brennan served as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of the Unitarian Universalist Association from 2006 to 2019.  There he oversaw the Association’s assets including the UU Common Endowment Fund, the UU Organizations Retirement Fund, charitable gift funds, outside trusts, and real estate with combined assets of approximately $600 million.  He was a member of the UUA’s Investment Committee, Socially Responsible Investing Committee, Retirement Plan Committee, and the UUA Health Plan Board of Trustees.  

Tim led the UUA’s shareholder advocacy efforts, pressing companies to address such issues as climate change, BGLTQ rights, political spending, and corporate governance. He also helped move the Association’s endowment portfolio to more fully incorporate environmental social and governance impacts into the investment process.

Tim was recently named by Chief Investment Officer Magazine as a finalist for the Industry Innovation Award in the ESG (environment, social and governance) investing category.

For on Tim and his current focus, see