This post was written by Robert Zulkoski, Chairman, Vermont Works Management Company, LLC; Member, Board of Advisors, SEMBA at the University of Vermont; Member of the Board of Directors, BTV Ignite; and Chairman, Greenlots
The integration of environment, social and governance factors (ES&G) into corporate and investment decision making has been gathering momentum over the last decade. Several well-researched reports highlight one of the key drivers underpinning this shift: sustainability and financial performance are linked.
A multitude of constituencies – governments, public companies, impact investment intermediaries, opinion leaders and investors – have contributed to the development of the global social impact investment market. A movement is afoot that represents a significant opportunity for businesses and markets to drive improved social value. By allocating assets towards products, services, and companies that generate positive social impact, the movement toward “impact investing” has the potential to create real value for both investors and for society.
The SEMBA curriculum involves the study of finance through the lens of sustainability, and is supplemented by workshops that include the exploration and discussion of impact investing. This post was written by SEMBA Advisory Board member Rob Morier, Managing Director, Head of North America at Global Evolution.
Institutions and individuals, from the trading desk to the university classroom, are rapidly adopting impact investing. The proliferation of funds and research has been a welcome revolution in the asset management industry. Investors have more options and information available to them than ever before as asset management companies and investors hurry to catch a rising tide of opportunity. As defined by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds, with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. While traditional business practices may perpetuate the idea that an organization must choose between doing good and making money, impact investments don’t carry the weight of that trade off, as the intention is to do both.
Although public and private equity markets have been the primary focus for impact investors and asset managers as they set their strategic investment goals pertaining to their mission or value related investments, fixed income has slowly moved from a minor to major player in terms of impact opportunities, despite being a cornerstone of traditional asset allocation models.
Over the past 25 years, most major business schools have added some kind of program focused on sustainability, corporate citizenship, or social entrepreneurship, though they are not integrated into the core DNA of the institution.
The University of Vermont’s Sustainability Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) is unique in that it fundamentally reinvents business education and the MBA degree to address the urgent sustainability challenges we face in the 21st century. The curriculum is focused 100% on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship. In this webinar, Professor Stuart Hart will describe the design and significance of the SEMBA — a 12 month, AACSB-accredited program focused on developing the next generation of business leaders who will innovate enterprises to move us more rapidly toward a sustainable world. Vinca Krajewski, a SEMBA graduate and currently Associate Brand Manager at Seventh Generation, will describe her experience in the program and how it has uniquely prepared her to be a changemaker for sustainable innovation.
No. 212 Rome Street, in Newark, New Jersey, used to be the address of Grammer, Dempsey & Hudson, a steel-supply company. It was like a lumberyard for steel, which it bought in bulk from distant mills and distributed in smaller amounts, mostly to customers within a hundred-mile radius of Newark. It sold off its assets in 2008 and later shut down. In 2015, a new indoor-agriculture company called AeroFarms leased the property. It had the rusting corrugated-steel exterior torn down and a new building erected on the old frame. Then it filled nearly seventy thousand square feet of floor space with what is called a vertical farm. The building’s ceiling allowed for grow tables to be stacked twelve layers tall, to a height of thirty-six feet, in rows eighty feet long. The vertical farm grows kale, bok choi, watercress, arugula, red-leaf lettuce, mizuna, and other baby salad greens.
The Sustainable Development Goals read like the best-intentioned New Year’s resolutions: End poverty; promote peace and justice; cooperate and partner with others for the greater good; and so on. Makes you wonder if the resolutions will stick.
Yet corporations that have begun to pursue the SDGs see business advantages unfolding that will reap benefits in 2017 and beyond. They are expanding markets, attracting talent and eliminating some risk from operations.
Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Tata, Siemens and others are seeing expanded markets, new recruits and risk reduction. Learn more >>
This post was written by Brodie O’Brien, SEMBA ’15, and Assistant Marketing Manager – US for Ben & Jerry’s
The University of Vermont’s SEMBA was a twelve month sprint from the nonprofit world to my dream job with a mission-driven company. No matter where you pursue your MBA you’ll be juggling coursework, internships, a social life (if you’re lucky), and maybe a family. It’s an incredibly busy time, so approaching the job search with a clear strategy is key to landing that perfect position.
On his way out of office, President Barack Obama is cementing his environmental legacy in ways that will be difficult for his successor to overturn. Today, he and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau banned oil and gas drilling in 115 million acres of the Arctic Ocean and 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean, in a swath stretching from Maryland to Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Obama had excluded these areas for a five-year period, but today’s action used a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) that should make the withdrawal permanent.
OCSLA gives the federal government jurisdiction over all submerged lands more than three miles offshore—that is, outside of state coastal waters. It gives the Department of the Interior the ability to lease offshore tracts for oil and natural gas, but its section 12(a) specifically allows the president to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer continental shelf.” Since there is no provision for a succeeding president to reverse such an order, it is presumed to be permanent.
US outdoor clothing giant Patagonia is calling for business leaders to back regenerative organic agriculture, claiming that certain textile standards are “not going far enough.”
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario blogs about regenerative agriculture:
A growing number of corporations, researchers, journalists and practitioners have also started using the term “regenerative”—as well as “restorative,” “sustainable,” “ethical,” and others—almost interchangeably, without any clear sense of what we’re talking about. Even worse, we’re increasingly seeing “sustainable” claims combined with conventional (non-organic) farming, which defeats the purpose entirely. How can you rebuild soil ecosystems while simultaneously pumping the soil with pesticides and herbicides?
We shouldn’t tolerate the watering down of agricultural practices that hold potential for enormous benefit to our suffering planet. The risks are simply too great. Meaningless terms with little or no concrete definition inundate consumers at every turn (even the label “organic” can be slippery), causing confusion at best. And some existing standards don’t go far enough. For example, many companies have signed onto the Better Cotton Initiative—a program that includes some important environmental and social provisions but ultimately still perpetuates some harmful conventional practices, including use of synthetic pesticides and GMO seeds.