Shedd Aquarium, Builders Initiative launches ESG fund

The Shedd Aquarium of Chicago, in partnership with the Builders Initiative, is launching a new sustainability-focused ESG investment portfolio to fund its core conservation work.

The $19 million environmental, social and governance fund, bolstered by $3 million in seed funding from Walmart heir Lukas Walton’s Builders Initiative philanthropy, seeks to tie aquarium resources more closely together to its values, said Shedd President and CEO Bridget C. Coughlin.

“This is another example of how Shedd, even before I arrived, decided to align operations, as we run this as a business, with our mission,” Ms Coughlin said.

Officials hope it will serve as a model for the industry. Large nonprofits like Shedd can invest hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It is still true that the preponderance of these nonprofit assets are not invested for the mission,” said Bruce McNamer, president of the Chicago-based Builders Initiative, which focuses on areas such as aid environment and rural development. “What we would also really like to do is take that experience and that example and go to other institutions that we work with – non-profit institutions, other philanthropic institutions with endowments – with the same type message: here’s an approach… to marrying mission with investment.

The new fund will target private equity investments in areas such as aquaculture, ocean health, renewable energy, emissions reduction and sustainable agriculture and water management.

The aquarium hopes other funders might be attracted to the idea of ​​adding to the $19 million ESG portfolio, invested with Chicago firm Adams Street Partners, said Gary Gordon, chief financial officer of the Shedd, who noted that the Shedd had about $300 million in total investments.