ESG Investing

Regional Spotlight: Pittsburgh Advances Socially Responsible Investing


Once the center of the steel industry, Pittsburgh has become a very different place—home to a diversified economy focused on healthcare, higher education, and robotics. Yet not everyone has benefitted from the change. Black Pittsburghers face prominent inequalities in health, education, and employment; mortality rates, poverty, education, and “occupational segregation” all remain higher than in most comparable US cities.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh today is marked by its many university endowments, thriving tech sector, and public embrace of socially responsible investing—in 2020, the City of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund voted to divest from fossil fuel companies and adopted ESG guidelines for screening investments. These qualities make the Steel City an ideal target for impact investing, a fact reinforced by Mark Busher, managing director and regional director of Glenmede: “There’s a big potential for Pittsburgh to become a major supporter of sustainable investing.”

Foundations and organizations have picked up the gauntlet, too. Here are just three of many making an impact in the region.

The Grable Foundation: The Kids Are Alright

Founded in 1976, the Grable Foundation is dedicated to supporting the city’s youth through organizations that “improve the lives of children in the Pittsburgh region.” To that end, it funds work concentrated on early childhood, public schools, out-of-school time, families, and community.

Some grantees include:

Pittsburgh today is marked by its many university endowments, thriving tech sector, and public embrace of socially responsible investing.

The Heinz Endowments: An Interest in Sustainability

With a decidedly place-based investing focus, the dual Heinz Endowments aim to advance “a sustainable future for our community and planet, successful learning outcomes for young people and their families, and a culture of engaged creativity for all our citizens.”

To that end, its sustainability strategy covers a swath of issues as diverse as equitable development to sustainable food systems. For instance, the Breathe Project is administered by the Air Quality Collaborative in order to serve as a clearinghouse of science-based air quality data in the Pittsburgh region. Another initiative called RethinkVets supports returning troops, while the Just Arts program works to develop “a more inclusively imagined future through art.”

These efforts dovetail with the progress Busher sees already: “The evolution of Pittsburgh is inextricably tied to today’s interest in sustainability.”

PaCEO: Supporting Employee Ownership

The Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership (PaCEO) promotes awareness of the benefits that come with employee ownership among Pennsylvania-based businesses, including keeping companies local, providing a succession plan for aging owners, and reducing the need for Social Security and 401(k) plans.

Amid the massive employment shifts resulting from the pandemic, employee ownership also dramatically reduces turnover and migration. As the CEO of Voodoo Brewery emphasized, “The employees have a completely different mentality. Employee rollover is essentially non-existent. We’ve got career chefs, career cooks, career bartenders.” PsCEO’s first year alone saw an increase of 20 employee-owned companies in Pennsylvania. It now provides education, training, and outreach to more than 1,500 individuals every year.

The bottom line: Pittsburgh offers ample opportunities for investors interested in socially responsible investing, both now and in the future.

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