Chris Ailman, CalSTRS
Chris Ailman, CalSTRS

CalSTRS’ CIO Chris Ailman, a longstanding and prominent champion for ESG, impact investing and DE&I, is retiring. Ailman, who has served 23 years as chief investment officer for the $317.8 billion California State Teachers Retirement System, made the announcement at a board meeting on Thursday that he will step down on 30 June 2024.

He sits on the Principles for Responsible Investment’s asset owners advisory committee and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s investor advisory group.

Under Ailman’s tenure, CalSTRS was one of the first US pension funds to recognise the risks and opportunities that climate change presents. CalSTRS began investing in climate solutions in 2004, according to the fund’s digital archives, and established a climate change stewardship programme (focusing on listed markets) in 2006. This programme was rebranded as the Sustainable Investments and Stewardship Strategies programme in 2019; Ailman appointed Kirsty Jenkinson, director of sustainable investment and stewardship strategies, the same year to lead the programme and expand its remit to include climate solutions investing. CalSTRS has allocated 5 percent of its total assets to sustainable investing through the SISS programme.

Ailman has also personally been a vocal advocate for diversity in investment management. New Private Markets interviewed Ailman on his thoughts on the importance of gender diversity in investing in December 2023 – read that here.

Jenkinson described Ailman at the meeting as “the most important CIO in this country to channel steadfastly the importance of sustainable investment as just being a good investor and a smart investor”. He will remain as an adviser to CalSTRS until the end of the year. CalSTRS has launched a public search for a new CIO.

Stewardship review

CalSTRS also reviewed the policies governing the SISS programme at the meeting, largely focusing on stewardship for the fund’s listed markets exposure. It has set three stewardship priorities: corporate and market accountability, net-zero transition and workforce and communities.

These priorities were selected because they are “material to the portfolio, affect multiple sectors and industries; we have the tools to effectuate change within those priorities and we’re able to deliver meaningful outcomes”, said SISS portfolio manager Aeisha Mastagni. “We want to be accountable to our stakeholders, we want to be accountable to you and to our beneficiaries.”