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Shedd Aquarium and Builders Initiative Partner to Establish ESG-Driven Investments as Part of Centennial Commitment

Sustainable Investment Portfolio Allows Aquarium to Build, Accelerate Conservation Impact

May 23, 2022

Shedd's historic greek style facade, viewed through the lush gardens.

CHICAGO Shedd Aquarium, with support from and in partnership with Builders Initiative, is launching a sustainability-focused pilot ESG investment portfolio to fuel the aquarium’s endeavors toward major conservation efforts. This new portfolio will support Shedd Aquarium’s endeavors such as local and global environmental advocacy, including a staghorn coral restoration in the Caribbean and innovative energy programs that reduce the aquarium’s carbon energy footprint. Part of the aquarium’s recently announced Centennial Commitment ambitions, the new ESG portfolio leads an investment approach that aligns with Shedd’s mission and its enduring and responsible approach to financial management.

“Shedd’s ESG approach arose from an interest in growing and maximizing the aquarium’s impact on our focus areas, including animal welfare, the sustainable use of the world’s oceans and marine resources and combating long-term physical effects of climate change,” said Dr. Bridget Coughlin, Shedd Aquarium president and CEO. “With the support of Builders Initiative, this investment portfolio is yet another way Shedd Aquarium is aligning our business practices with our mission and vision of a sustainable and thriving blue planet.”

Shedd has a history of investing its resources into an endowment, however, to better align with its conservation mission, the new $19 million portfolio, seeded from Shedd resources and augmented by a significant contribution from Builders Initiative, will be target invested instead in several sustainability ESG-focused funds. Future returns will support the aquarium’s ongoing environmental stewardship focus. The portfolio will align capital resources with investment opportunities, focusing on urgent areas such as aquaculture and ocean health, renewable energy and storage, emissions reductions, sustainable agriculture and land use, and water quality and management.

“Our mission at Builders Initiative is to shift markets and minds for good, and this partnership perfectly exemplifies what organizations can do together to drive meaningful change. We are proud to join with partners, like Shedd Aquarium, to look at how we can approach investment strategies in different vehicles – including endowments – to drive impact-minded choices and further our impact to build a more humane and healthy planet,” said Bruce McNamer, President of Builders Initiative.

In addition to the $3 million invested in this ESG portfolio, Builders Initiative granted an additional $5 million to Shedd Aquarium to support various elements of its Centennial Commitment.

Adopted by Shedd Aquarium Board of Trustees in March, the new investment policy also ensures that this ESG investing matches Shedd’s diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI) priorities.

“To preserve biodiversity, we need creative investment models that highlight and encourage positive financial returns and ecological impact,” said Brian A. Kenney, Chairman of the Board of Chicago-based GATX Corporation and Shedd Aquarium Board Chair. “I applaud the Board for their hard work in exploring new and authentic ways for the aquarium to live its mission more fully and steward its fiscal philosophy and approach to investing for the future.”

Shedd’s ESG investment earnings will support the aquarium’s ongoing conservation efforts. Benefitting programs will range from improving the aquarium’s onsite energy use and sustainability practices to sending staff across the globe to participate in rescue and rehabilitation efforts that help vulnerable animals.

This pilot ESG is one of several commitments outlined in the aquarium’s Centennial Commitment strategic vision. The 8-year strategic plan will accelerate access to nature for all, while amplifying ways to care, conserve, and act to ensure an equitable, sustainable, and thriving future for people and aquatic life. To learn more about Shedd’s Centennial Commitment, visit

VISUALS:   High resolution photos of Shedd Aquarium can be viewed and downloaded here:  
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Broadcast quality b-roll is available here:  
Video Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin