University Investments Not in Accordance with UN Guiding Principles of Human Rights, Amnesty International Report Finds

The University scored 0/40 points across all categories and received a failing grade, the lowest of any university in the report.


By Neive Rodriguez

An Amnesty International report from April 29 alleges that the University of Chicago has failed to ensure its investments are in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles of Human Rights.

The report analyzed the activities of the investment offices from the universities with the 10 largest endowments in the United States: UChicago, the University of California system, the University of Texas system, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Duke, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania. The report claims that as of 2020, UChicago had the tenth largest endowment of universities in the country at approximately $14 billion.

Amnesty graded each university on four categories: Commitment to Responsible Investment; Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) Integration and Due Diligence; Stewardship and Engagement; and Disclosure and Transparency. Each school was given a score from zero to three in each category and a letter grade ranging from A to F based on the percentage of points scored.

UChicago scored 0/40 points in total and received a failing grade from Amnesty, the lowest of any university in the report. Amnesty said that UChicago’s Office of Investments is not a signatory to the UN Principles on Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and has no mandate requiring its investors to consider ESG-related factors in their portfolios, a process known as ESG integration. Amnesty further alleged that the endowment has no publicly available policy that mentions human rights as a consideration for the investment portfolio and has no public disclosure of investment holdings, among other shortcomings.

Seven of the 10 universities Amnesty investigated were given failing grades on their scorecard; only Harvard, the University of California system, and Yale received passing grades.

According to the report, to satisfy the UN’s Principles, investors must identify potential human rights infringements implicated in their investments, take steps to mitigate these infringements, and be transparent about doing so. Amnesty sourced information on each university’s investment practices by reviewing publicly available information on each investment office and assessing if the investment office was a signatory to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment group.

Further, Amnesty analyzed the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Ratings System database, a rating process which allows colleges and universities to self-assess their sustainability practices to deduce the sustainability of investment practices. Lastly, Amnesty examined the Intentional Endowment Network’s report on investor responsibility to gain more insight into the ethics of each university’s investment portfolio.