SFU First University to Invest $10 Million with Vancity Community Investment Bank

January 12, 2023

Simon Fraser University took the next step in its socially responsible investment strategy by becoming the first Canadian university to invest $10 million with Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) Impact GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate), pledging to make a positive and transformative difference for communities across Canada.

"At SFU, we believe in a better future for everyone. That's why we are working to make our investments reflect our values," says Karamjeet Heer, associate vice-president, finance. "We're thrilled to be investing in the bank's Impact GIC, which provides financing solutions for affordable housing, social-purpose real estate, under-served entrepreneurs, renewable energy and retrofit projects as well as other initiatives by charities and non-profits."  

“Universities can be significant platforms for societal and environmental change, and they have the power and resources to create positive impact beyond the campus boundary,” says Jennifer Hutcheon, Vice President, VCIB. “When responsible investors like SFU choose to invest with VCIB, they are doing more than divesting from fossil fuels – they are choosing to support tangible, impact-driven projects that advance the change we need to see in the world.”

VCIB is a leader in impact investing. The bank is part of the Vancity Group and operates with a 100 per cent impact mandate. This means it exclusively finances organizations and enterprises that drive social, economic and environmental change.

Some of VCIB's projects include include financing to support the development of 414 affordable housing units through local Habitat for Humanity organizations and a residential geoexchange project that provides low-cost, clean and efficient heating and cooling for 246 properties in BC. More recently, VCIB financed a project to advance the electrification of Canada’s freight transportation sector.

SFU’s commitment to responsible investment

SFU has been a leader in socially responsible investing since 2014 when it became one of the first Canadian universities to sign the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment and committed to integrating environmental, social and governance factors into all parts of its investment process.

Since announcing its commitment to full divestment last fall, SFU's global equity portfolio—valued at $450 million as of December 2021—is already 100 per cent fossil fuel free. Additionally, including the $10 million VCIB Impact GIC, SFU has over $50 million invested in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds and impact investments, including a $40 million investment in a global sustainable equity fund, where companies are selected for growth potential and positive impact on the environment and society and a US$4.5 million commitment to a clean technology fund.

Returns on such investments are used to advance long-term academic, research and housing infrastructure strategies at SFU.

“Our investments in SRI funds and Impact GIC means more money going toward renewable energy research and development and other initiatives that help reduce climate change impacts on communities around us," says Jack Shen, director of treasury.  

The university’s recently released 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan outlines how it will continue reducing its carbon footprint while taking steps towards fully divesting its endowed and non-endowed funds by 2025. Moreover, SFU has already achieved its 45 per cent reduction target against the 2016 baseline three years ahead of the 2025 deadline. 

The university made a further $109 million investment into RBC's Vision Fossil Fuel Free Bond Fund last year and continues to work with institutions across Canada and beyond to promote sustainable investments. 

Making investments to support communities around us is just one of the ways SFU strives to advance its mission of being a leading university that creates knowledge and transforms society for the betterment of all.

Learn more about SFU's 2022-2025 Strategic Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and how we prioritize climate justice, resilience and action in all our work.