A New Option for Putting Jewish Values into Action

By Nancy B. Greer

President & CEO
The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Seattle stewarded by your Federation is a strong vehicle for individuals, families, and Jewish organizations in the Puget Sound region to ensure their financial futures and achieve their philanthropic goals through the power of donor-advised funds and endowments.

Endowments are critical for the long-term financial health of organizations that do so much good for Jewish life. Through the LIFE & LEGACY® initiative, Federation has given participating organizations the tools to build and sustain endowments, and to date, has helped secure over $14 million in legacy-gift commitments. On their behalf, your Federation is investing realized bequests, putting Jewish values into action.

In that spirit and in response to growing community interest, Federation has launched an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment strategy for the Foundation and has recently added ESG as an option to the menu of choices offered to foundation fundholders.

Why ESG and why now? First, a word of explanation about what ESG is and what it means for managing funds. In broad terms, ESG is a tool for integrating values with investment choices. Depending on how they’re structured, ESG funds may include assorted screening criteria for considering publicly traded companies’ environmental impacts, their employee, customer, and community relationships, and company management.

Federation worked with SEI, the global investment firm that manages Foundation funds, to create the Impact Strategy with screens reflecting a broader responsibility to society and the environment. Funds managed according to the Impact Strategy direct capital to firms with the highest ESG scores and those that invest based on Jewish values and communal concerns, while moving toward divestment from fossil energy sources.

ESG funds have been available to investors for decades, but interest has grown rapidly in recent years. A report from Bloomberg Intelligence earlier this year estimated that ESG assets worldwide topped $35 trillion in 2020, up over 14 percent in just two years.

When planned thoughtfully and carried out with due diligence, ESG is another tool for bringing investments and values into alignment while achieving financial performance and risk management goals central to a fund manager’s fiduciary duty. That is the approach Federation is taking for bringing this opportunity to our community.

Offering ESG as an option to fundholders is one more way of ensuring that Jewish values remain front and center in stewarding endowments and building a brighter Jewish tomorrow.

To learn more, please contact my colleague Rachel Rosenman, at rachelmr@jewishinseattle.org.