The David O’Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise in cooperation with Finance and Sustainability Initiative Montreal has created the Sustainable Investment Professional Certification Program (SIPC). This program offers basic sustainability training to business professionals with 70 to 80 hours of self-study curriculum material, online study guidance, certification testing, culminating in the Sustainable Investment Professional Certificate. I recently had the chance to speak with David Lank from the John Molson School of Business about the programme.
1. Why did you decide to start the Certification?
We saw a growing demand coming from the investment community in Montreal who wanted to understand the basics of sustainability and sustainable investing. Their clients or their own organizations were looking to invest in initiatives that offer a financial return while providing a social and environmental benefit. The SIPC was developed to equip investment professionals with the new set of skills and knowledge required to understand and seek out opportunities in the rapidly emerging sustainable finance sector.
2. How did you go about starting it?
The SIPC program’s curriculum was developed by a select group of faculty at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University. The Program is guided by a Business Advisory Council (BAC) consisting of practitioners in the fields of sustainability and finance from some of Quebec’s most esteemed corporations including Addenda Capital, Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, Cascades, Desjardins, GIR and Osisko. Along with JMSB professors, the BAC was integral to ensuring that the program curriculum was relevant for the educational needs of investment professionals. In addition, the SIPC Program itself was born from, and developed with the help of, the Finance and Sustainability Initiative (FSI). The FSI is a Montreal based, not-for-profit organization that encourages and promotes sustainability as a best practice in the financial sector. It is comprised of over 65 participants/members, representing the mainstream financing and investment community, social and green finance, academia and academia service providers.
3. What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?
We thought the biggest challenge would be raising corporate funds to start the program, but we actually found that partners were eager to jump on board with their support. There’s always a challenge in convincing the mainstream financial industry of the need for change, and of the financial, social and environmentally benefits of sustainable investing. However, it’s starting to take less convincing as recent events (banking scandals, economic crisis etc.) are showing that things can’t continue business as usual.
4. What have been some of your successes? How has the program been received?
The program has been really well received. We will have put over 70 students through this first year and have gotten back really positive feedback. Some successes include receiving Approved Provider Program status from the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst institute) and other similar financial industry governing bodies. We have had major companies such as the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) commit a number of their employees into the program because they saw the value in this kind of training and in associating themselves with this type of initiative.
5. What would you recommend to other schools thinking of putting in place certification courses around the topic of sustainability? What are your plans/hopes for the program moving forward?
The goal of any program should be to make it as relevant as possible to working professionals. Therefore, it was crucial for us to have actual practitioners in the field of sustainable investing involved at all stages. It also such a rapidly developing area that it requires curriculum to be constantly updated in order for the training to stay relevant. Our goal is to bring our certification to the next level this upcoming year by increasing enrollment and having a larger international student body. We want the SIPC to be recognized as the go-to program internationally for this type of training.