Catholic Impact Profile: School Sisters of Notre Dame

The School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province live and minister in 21 states, the U.S. territory of Guam, and the countries of Austria, Italy, Japan and Nepal. We are part of an international congregation established by Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger in 1833. Our mission impels us to proclaim the good news of God’s love to the world to bring all to oneness with God.  We work to transform the world through education with the belief that education extends beyond classrooms and enables all to reach the fullness of their potential as people created by God. Social justice and advocacy issues are central to SSND values. Caring for the Earth, accompanying those who are poor and marginalized, stopping human trafficking and promoting justice are key issues for us.

Our involvement in socially responsible investing began more than three decades ago and continues to expand with the inclusion of impact investments.  Over the years this involvement developed as we:    

  1. Directed our investment managers to screen investments and promote positive corporate practices

  2. Engaged in social justice shareholder activism through corporate shareholder resolutions and dialog

  3. Invested in organizations designed for the purpose of upholding our values, for example, participating in solar projects and investing in impact investments intended to promote positive environmental outcomes along with market returns

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Wind Farm supported by the Sisters in Tellenes Norway

For over three decades the School Sisters of Notre Dame have directed our investment managers to both screen investments and to make efforts to invest in companies that promote positive corporate practices that reflect our values. Our screens exclude companies engaged in weapon production, tobacco, nuclear power, pornographic products or services, human embryonic stem cell research or abortion-related products. In the last year we added an exclusion of energy companies which have an Environmental, Social and Governance rating by MSCI ESG Research below BBB. These screens are primarily implemented by our investment managers in separately managed accounts. In addition we encourage our managers to invest in companies with a high degree of corporate responsibility and to report to us on social, environmental and corporate performance. This encouragement has been most effective in direct dialog in annual meetings with our investment managers.

As members of both the Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment and the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment the School Sisters of Notre Dame have served as filers of shareholder resolutions and entered into dialogs. Just this year we are a lead filer on the Business Plan for 2C Warming Scenario with a utility company and we are in dialog regarding global supply chain/human rights issues with a retailer.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame made their first “alternative” investment in a housing loan fund more than 20 years ago. Today, we directly invest in 18 organizations primarily loan funds and community development financial institutions. Our Corporate Responsibility Committee searches for organizations that meet our criteria and monitors the organizations to ensure they are delivering results. These organizations focus on human dignity, supporting the family and serving the common good in the world community. These investments may carry little financial benefit for us, and therefore require that we "risk in faith" so that our efforts will lead to community redevelopment and economic independence for the poor and vulnerable.

In the spirit of caring for our Earth, we were inspired by the words of Pope Francis to protect our common home. We researched the new ways we could use our financial resources to have a greater impact. After considerable study we engaged in two new approaches to impact.

We have made financial commitments to three solar projects in the Mankato Minnesota area near where we have one of our main locations. These commitments have taken the form of land leases and future commitments to purchase solar power. These solar projects, when fully operational, are anticipated to generate 3 million kilowatts for SSND’s Mankato campus and offer first hand educational opportunities to area students.

 1 Megawatt Solar Farm Financed by the School Sisters 

1 Megawatt Solar Farm Financed by the School Sisters 

Most recently we made two impact investments: in global renewable power and in companies providing solutions to resource scarcity and environmental pollutions. We work closely with our investment consultants to find and determine suitability of these impact investments. The global renewable power investment is a private equity investment and the second investment is a fund comprised of global equity securities. These investments measure not only their financial returns but also renewable energy generated, net CO2 emission avoided and water provided/saved or treated. We are learning from these investments and plan to continue to look for other opportunities to earn both financial and social returns from other impact investments. We meet annually with members of the impact investment managers to review their progress and review annual reports which include Independent Assurance statements.

Certainly the possibilities to have an impact on key issues like caring for the Earth, accompanying those who are poor and marginalized, stopping human trafficking and promoting justice have expanded over the last three decades. We pray our efforts, along with millions of others, will indeed have a significant impact.

 

 The electricity needs of the School Sisters are directly supported by a  40 KW solar array on                                                              the roof of Notre Dame Hall. 

The electricity needs of the School Sisters are directly supported by a  40 KW solar array on                                                              the roof of Notre Dame Hall.