I have been working with the Sustainable Endowments Institute in supporting the Billion Dollar Green Challenge for the past few months. The BDGC is a national effort with the goal of having $1 billion cumulatively invested in campus Green Revolving Funds (GRFs) geared towards financing sustainability projects on campuses for projects related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation and the like.
Last week, we were at the University San Diego for the Financing the Future of Energy Efficiency Summit. It was a great event, and an excellent venue for participants to learn from each other and the speakers.
To date, 39 colleges and universities have joined the BDGC, committing a total of $79 million to GRFs that will support their institutions for years to come. The projects funded by these GRFs will provide solid financial returns to the institutions - the recently published "Greening the Bottom Line" report from SEI found that on average GRFs are realizing returns of 28%.
These projects will also help schools meet their sustainability goals, and perhaps most importantly make campuses living labs for sustainability -- providing students with valuable experiential education opportunities that will help them internalize sustainability concepts and practices, so they can apply them throughout their personal and professional lives.
With the fossil fuels divestment campaigns building steam across the country, the BDGC provides a very compelling alternative with multiple ancillary benefits for endowment managers looking for ways to get out of fossil fuel investments without sacrificing returns.