Developing a Sustainability Disposition – La Trobe Business School

In 2008, La Trobe Business School in Melbourne, Australia was one of the first schools to become a Signatory to PRME. The Business School, which also has campuses in Sydney, China, France and Vietnam, has been actively engaged in both embedding responsible management within its school as well as contributing to the PRME network. They are starting their second term as a PRME Champion, Ten years on, they were selected to be a PRME Champion along with 38 other business schools from across the world who are taking transformative action on integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into three key areas: curriculum, research and partnerships.

In 2015 the School put in place a second year subject focused on Sustainability which is mandatory for all students enrolled in any Business Degree. Because of its focus on developing a sustainability disposition in students rather than just educating them about the issues, the course has been very well received by students and continues to be an exemplar of cross-disciplinary subject content within the School. I spoke with Dr Swati Nagpal about this innovative course. 

What is La Trobe Business School’s approach to sustainability in the classroom?

LBS understands the obligation as an institution to advocate for responsible management education throughout the school; in its four departments and its research centres, and by advocating and supporting responsible management initiatives and operations across the university.

A patchwork of subjects addressing Sustainability Education in Business degree courses at La Trobe was replaced in 2015 by a core second year subject entitled ‘BUS2SUS – Sustainability’, for all students enrolled in any Business degree. More than 2,500 students are now enrolled in this compulsory subject every year. This includes students from a range of business majors, including management, human resource management, marketing, accounting, sport management, finance, event management, tourism and hospitality, economics, international business, and agribusiness.

The subject is based on a blended learning design that allows for greater scalability across the entire portfolio of majors within Business and across all our campuses in Australia and abroad. With sustainability as the lens or context for change, students are introduced to systems thinking, tools for solving wicked problems, and the role of advocacy in managing change for sustainability.

How have you approached the design and delivery of this core course?

The process of embedding sustainability thinking into the core business curriculum presented a number of challenges, including distinguishing sustainability from related streams of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and non-financial measurement and reporting. The curriculum design was ultimately guided by the need for a future set of skills, rather than by identifying disciplinary content that business graduates might require. These skills include critical thinking, creative problem solving, ethical awareness and teamwork. For example, by working in small groups in class, and engaging with ‘wicked’ global sustainability issues such as climate change, global poverty and renewable energy, students are required to apply a systems lens to examining the true nature of the issues and potential solutions.

There is also an emphasis on creating a ‘safe space’ in classes to tackle often controversial social and environmental issues such as indigenous disadvantage in Australia, the refugee crisis and the potential for a sugar tax. This has required class teachers to be briefed and trained in pedagogical techniques that require reflexive practice and approaches to manage conflict.

The course puts a focus on developing a sustainability disposition. Why do you think this is important?

Research on education for sustainability, student surveys and teaching feedback have taught us that developing graduate skills for sustainability is not enough to create the impetus required for students to be change agents for sustainability, there also needs to be an emphasis on creating a ‘mindset’ change. This is enabled in the subject through use of a range of pedagogical design elements to create a learning environment that seeks to bring about this change. For example, through the use of case studies, examples and problem-based scenarios that require students to reflect on their underlying values base and question the status quo in management thought.

As such, this subject places a focus on both generic graduate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while also creating the disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making.

How are the SDGs embedded into this course?

Using the SDGs as a guide, students are introduced to the interplay between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainability, and the implications for ethically complex decision-making.

Ultimately, educating students new to the SDGs places us in a unique position as the entry point in their educational experience. We believe this is critical in developing their awareness of global issues and challenges so that they can enter the workplace fully equipped to advance and implement policies and practices that will contribute to sustainable business.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

The question of whether business schools should approach embedding sustainability into core curriculum or as an elective has not been resolved to date. Our experience at LBS in taking the ‘core subject’ approach has been positive since we have the institutional support in terms of the University’s focus on sustainability and our historical emphasis and ethos of social justice. Therefore, gaining institutional support for furthering the sustainability agenda is key, along with the resources to make it happen.

The challenge in any modern business subject in sustainably is an emphasis on both the development of graduate skills and students’ disposition towards sustainability and ethical decision-making. This requires modern educators to span the boundary of the classroom and identify opportunities to engage with industry partners and other stakeholders to continuously produce innovative teaching materials and approaches that inspire and motivate students to pursue business ideas that align with the SDGs. 

What’s next for the class?

Next year, a major piece of assessment will focus on students (in groups) generating a business idea to be in contention for the Hult Prize. One of the challenges with a large enrolments in the subject are the limited options to create authentic assessments. An international student competition that requires students to develop an actionable and scalable business idea is both practical and allows for gamification/competitive elements to be built into the subject design.

What other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area especially in relation to the SDGs.

In 2017, LBS embarked on a series of workshops that brought together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals.

This outreach project on the SDGs is an international effort by our CR3+ network which includes LBS and PRME Champions Audencia Nantes School of Management (Nantes, France), ISAE/FGV (Curitiba, Brazil) and Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki, Finland). All four business schools have committed to hosting similar workshops in their countries.

Two Australian workshops were held in Wollongong and Albury-Wodonga on 15/11/17 and 29/11/17 respectively. In addition to the original aims as set out in the project proposal, the choice to focus on regional areas was two-fold; firstly, to develop our regional campus’ capacity to build and sustain cross-sector engagement and partnerships on the theme of the SDGs, and secondly, to focus on areas where UN Global Compact Network Australia presence is limited.

This post is part of a special feature throughout the month of February focused on schools in Australia and New Zealand. 

The SDGs at the University of Wollongong

Students at the University of Wollongong

In a past post I had the chance to speak with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, about the Chapters transition from an Emerging to an Established Chapter as well as the specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are most pertinent to that region. I also had the chance to speak to Belinda about her other role, that of  coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about what her University has planned around the SDGs.

How is the University of Wollongong approaching responsible management education?

While I am the AUSNZ PRME Chapter Coordinator, I also coordinate the responsible management education practices within the Faculty of Business at the University of Wollongong (UOW) where I am a senior lecturer for the Sydney Business School. A PRME signatory since 2009, the UOW Faculty of Business executive have always demonstrated significant support for responsible and sustainable education in curriculum and research. More recently we have modified our vision to directly focus on being a ‘ global leader in promoting the theory and practice of responsible business principles’. Backed by our mission ‘…….to promote responsible leadership and sustainable business practice, and contribute to a stronger economy and a more just society’. This change ensures that the key areas of responsible management are at the forefront of all decisions, actions and discussions.

How is the University integrating the SDGs?

While we have interdisciplinary subjects that are built upon the theoretical foundation of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and map PRME and SDG education research across disciplines, some of the smaller initiatives at Wollongong are having a large-scale difference. Examples of these include; a PRME representative seat on the Faculty Education Committee to ensure responsible management is in all curriculum and assessment changes; PRME representation in all course reviews with the latest course reviews in 2016 ensuring responsible management in undergraduate and postgraduate course learning outcomes and assurance of learning practices; academic and professional staff hiring job descriptions now have responsible leadership and sustainable business practices in position descriptions alongside grant funding applications must show how they contribute and provide impact to the mission and particular SDGs.

What are some of your challenges moving forward?

The challenge moving forward is to instil the SDGs into the fabric of the University and not just the Business Faculty. More recently UOW signed as a member of the UNGC. This institution membership provides a path for SDG discussions beyond the Faculty of Business. Evidence of this occurred in November 2017 when UOW collaborated with Healthy Cities Illawarra and PRME Champion School LaTrobe Business School to bring together delegates from business, local government, education, not for profit and community sectors to discuss what the SDGs mean for them, and create opportunities for collaboration among the sectors towards implementation of the goals. A workshop was held as a breakfast event, with an impressive turnout of 120 attendees.

It is also important that we extend our collaborations across institutions internationally. Throughout 2016, Wollongong took part in the global WikiRate Student Engagement Trial. This trial enabled us to discuss processes and outcomes with a number of international PRME signatories and we volunteered to conduct an external review and research piece on the perspectives of different participants involved in the project. This research has generated insights that are feeding into the next phase of the project, and that help to ensure students, professors and their institutions are getting the best experience and learning.

Any tips for other schools looking to engage in the SDGs?

Senior leadership support and a culture whereby creativity and the ability to experiment is essential to deliver the change in higher education that is required to realise the SDGs.

 

Learn more about Wollongong engagement in PRME…

In their 2017 Sharing Information on Progress Report, UOW provides a chart that represents the Faculty of Business’ research grouped by Sustainable Development Goal. This was featured in a past PRiMEtime post on Reporting on the SDGs- A Visual Tour of Different Approaches. In 2016 UOW’s involvement in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience was also featured. AIME is an Australia wide educational programme that supports indigenous students through high school and into University by pairing these students with mentor students form the Business School. Back in 2015 we spoke to Belinda about their experiences merging two approaches to responsible management education when the University of Wollongong merged with another Business School in 2013. 

A Focus on Australia/New Zealand

This past December the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, officially transitioned from an Emerging to an Established Chapter, cementing their commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. Although they only just became an Established Chapter, the region has always had a very active PRME Signatory base, a group of schools that are not only active within the PRME network, but also actively engaged in pushing the agenda forward with a range of innovative approaches. Because of this, schools from this region are regularly featured on PRiMEtime.

The month of February will be focused on sharing examples of good practices around embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education from schools across Australia and New Zealand. To kick things off, I spoke with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Chapter as well as the coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about both the challenges and opportunities for the region as a whole.

Tell us a bit more about the Australia/New Zealand Chapter.

Schools in this region have been active in PRME since 2008. Currently 53% of universities in Australia and 75% in NZ are PRME signatories with a growth rate of approximately 2-3 signatories per year. Amidst vast land distances between signatories (there is a five hour time difference between our Schools), PRME members communicate on bi-monthly conference calls, virtual state based gatherings and via more formal annual forums and regular emails.

The work and in particular the courses that schools in this region offer have an important impact both here and abroad because education is Australia’s largest service export and New Zealand’s second largest. Recent statistics reveal that of all Australian higher education courses completed in 2016, the field of management and commerce accounts for 19% for domestic students and 55% for our international students. New Zealand has similar high statistics with 27% of students studying management and commerce courses. Of that 1 in 5 are international students. These large numbers and percentage of diverse cultures offers us rich exploration for teaching and learning but also numerous challenges in the way to tackle all 17 SDGs in the curriculum, research and partnerships.

You officially became an Established Chapter at your most recent Regional Meeting. Tell us a bit about it.

The 5th PRME Chapter Australia & New Zealand Forum took place at Deakin University, a PRME Champion School, in Melbourne early in December 2017. The theme of the meeting was ‘Inspire, Motivate, Engage, Act’ in regards to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the day we went through the different elements of the theme. We started by celebrating and sharing the growth we have had as a region over the past 10 years, congratulating Latrobe Business School and Griffith Business School in Australia and University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand who were among the first to sign as PRME Signatories.  We also signed the MOU with the PRME Secretariat, officially becoming an Established Chapter. Each school had a chance to present their achievements from 2017 and hopes for 2018 and to share key resources and opportunities. We also had a number individuals join us for parts of the day including Alice Cope, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Australia, Anne Swear who is the Head of Corporate Sustainability at ANZ, Sue Noble the CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Giselle Weybrecht who is a Special Advisor to the PRME Secretariat, Sarah Goulding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Soyuma Gupta, a current student at Deakin. The discussions were focused on how Australia is moving forward with the SDGs and how the schools that form the chapter can be part of those discussions and actions moving forward. For a full summary of the meeting click here.

What are some of the challenges that schools in this part of the world are facing and some issues that are particularly relevant in relation to the SDG?

While our research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to economic, social and demographic challenges facing our nations we need to work closer with industry and government to support SDGs realisation. Our textbook and classroom cases can be routine in using global examples, which are informative, but the challenge is to bring an understanding of the SDGs back to illustrations from our countries, enabling our students and academics to understand just how global these goals are.

An example of this in particular pertains to human rights. In the latest Amnesty International 2016-2017 report, Australia’s commitment to human rights fails when it comes to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children abuse and deaths in custody (SDG 10.2, 16.2). Asylum seeking processes and procedures (SDG 1.4, 10.7), disability rights (SDG 1.2, 10.2) and counter-terror measures (SDG 10.3), all of which put us on the Human Rights Watch List for the third successive year in 2016. New Zealand has similar Indigenous Maori challenges along with high rates of violence against women and girls (SDG 5.1, 5.2) and children poverty rates (SDG 1.2). Ensuring these issues are communicated and mapped across all disciplines in the management and commerce field requires raising awareness, conducting audit type processes alongside developing a mechanism for resource sharing.

What’s planned for the chapter moving forward?

The SDGs provide us with a framework for industry, civil society and government collaboration. In Australia, the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress is underway with the report due mid-2018. It is essential that the higher education sector and in particular PRME AUSNZ contribute to this report and continue to build relationships for future research.

As an Established Chapter, we are forming a steering committee that will focus on the priority areas of student engagement activities and embedding SDGs in the curriculum, building communities of practices within Faculty and across university/universities, mapping SDGs across curriculum and research and research and cross sector collaboration.

Campus Sustainability at Copenhagen Business School

At the PRME Global Forum, several Signatories received Recognition for the Sharing Information on Progress Reports. Copenhagen Business School in Denmark once again received recognition for their report, a report which is distributed to staff, students and partners and is used as an important communication tool both on and off campus.

CBS has many initiatives around responsible management and sustainability and has recently launched a number of initiatives focused on campus sustainability. I recently spoke with Louise Kofod Thomsen, co-founder of the Sustainable Infrastructure Taskforce (SIT) at the business school about their approach to sustainability on campus and their plans moving forward.

Why is it important that universities bring sustainability onto their campuses?

Universities act as role models for their students and basically, nurture and influence future decision-makers. During students’ time at university, they are taught how to act when they take on positions in businesses, but if they experience that it is okay to waste or in other words act irresponsibly, this is what they will bring into their future roles. In this sense, campus creates a sense of identity for the students and it is our belief that focusing on sustainability on campus will ultimately foster certain attitudes towards responsible behavior upon graduating. 

What has been the push at CBS when it comes to embedding sustainability into the campus?

Every few years, the Minister for Education and Science negotiates new university development contracts. These contracts contain self-defined targets by individual institutions as well as obligatory targets based on societal needs. Until now, these contracts have not set targets for universities in terms of raising the bar for energy, waste etc. but we strongly believe that they should, in particular as part of universities’ role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Being a business school, we educate future employees for the business society (and other institutions). In recent years, we have experienced a growing interest from companies within the sustainability agenda that creates a natural push to how we should educate students. At the same time, there is also a considerable push from students through student organizations who wants to do more with sustainability.

What is your approach to sustainability on campus? What are some of the most material issues?

CBS Campus Services is working on getting waste sorting in all CBS buildings. At the moment they sort 12 different types of waste and we are working in close collaboration with the municipality to improve waste sorting on campus. A very recent development is the new department, CBS Estates. The new department will focus on 1. Operation and development of existing buildings, 2. Sustainability, 3. Development of teaching and learning facilities and 4. The establishment of Student and Innovation House in collaboration with the students. These four focus areas create a great platform for us at CBS PRME, student organizations and others to work more closely with CBS operations and top management to set even more ambitious targets for the green agenda on campus and launch projects that can get us closer to the goal of a more sustainable campus.

How are students engaged in sustainability on campus?

CBS engages students in sustainability on campus from day one. At the beginning of the first semester approximately 2500 new bachelor students start their time at CBS with Responsibility Day. The aim of the day is to provide them with an opportunity to reflect upon social, responsibility and ethical dilemmas, both in their new role as CBS students and in their future role as business managers. The day also sets expectations for the role that their education will play over the course of their time at CBS. One of our student organizations, oikos, hosts Green Week for one week in March where students learn more about sustainable living and working.

What have been some of the challenges?
It is always challenging when you try to create change. You meet a lot of “this is not possible” attitude or “this is how we have always done it” which can make it seem impossible to get the results. Often change starts from below, and when it comes to sustainability, this is also the case at CBS. This means that everything takes longer, because we need to mobilize stakeholders bottom up and document the impact to prove the importance. It is all about people, and therefore you need the people on board. We also need to work on improving environmental sustainability in buildings and this requires that we work across departments and facilities and collaborate with many different entities to achieve results.

What’s next for environmental sustainability at CBS?

CBS is collaborating with the Green Business Council to use CBS as a case study for the development of campuses in urban areas. We also recently launched The Sustainable Living Lab, a project that opens up campus data for students and researchers to use the campus to implement, test, research and teach sustainability. It is still in its early days but we are excited about what this could mean not just for the campus but for staff, faculty and students.

CBS Department of Management, Society and Communication is also engaging staff regularly around sustainability topics. With the Sustainable Infrastructure Taskforce, the department now wants to implement sustainable initiatives using the department as a pilot. One example is the department wide competition on ideas for how the department can become more sustainable. The winning solution was to have vegetarian meals as default for all meetings and conferences as opposed to the traditional non-vegetarian option.

A next step for the sustainable journey at CBS would be to gather more data on waste, water, energy and CO2 and set clearly communicated targets for these areas. It is a great opportunity to also track the savings you can make in the long run. The challenge is of course that budgets usually only cover short term, which can make it difficult to prove the long-term benefits.

What’s next in terms of student engagement?
In terms of engaging students, Five student organizations in collaboration with CBS PRME have come together to coordinate a 2-day hackathon inviting students from Danish universities to come to CBS and work on solutions to 4 defined sustainability challenges on campus from food waste to inequality. It is the ambition that the winning solution is to be implemented in collaboration with CBS top management and operations. The winning team will have the opportunity to present their solution at the PRME office in New York and hopefully inspire other universities to follow this path. A strong jury panel consisting of representatives from Copenhagen University, The Technical University of Denmark, CBS and representatives from private companies will judge the solutions. It is the first time that students, staff, management and partners come together to discuss the challenges and solutions for a greener campus and hopefully this will create a strong platform for future collaboration.

What advice do you have for other schools looking at campus sustainability?
It might seem as an overwhelming task, but just get started on the journey. There are ups and downs along the way, but if you keep pushing and engaging colleagues in the efforts, you will see results. Start by identifying the key stakeholders who you need to have on board to change the way you do things today.

Impact Investing in the African Context – University of Cape Town

 

This past month, PRiMEtime has featured a number of programmes from universities around the world focused on impact investing. We finish off the series with an example from South Africa, from the University of Cape Town. There one faculty member has created a special one week intensive course focused on impact investing in the African context. I spoke with Aunnie Patton Power from the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town about their initiatives in this space.

What is happening in Impact Investing in South Africa?

Impact investing on the continent is certainly growing.  It has been dominated by international funds in the past, but we are starting to see the emergence of funds based on the continent looking to deploy funds.  There is a lot of opportunity for local funds to partner with international funds to bring down costs around due diligence and ensure better local knowledge. According to the Global Impact Investing Network, sub-Saharan Africa makes up 22% of global impact enterprises.

How is the University of Cape Town exploring the topic?

One of the ways that we are looking at impact investing is through a course we have called Impact Investing in Africa, which is running for the third time this year. I created this course after I worked on the Oxford Impact Investing Program and saw the need for an African based course to help unlock capital on the continent towards impact.

The course takes place over 5 days. It is designed for a wide range of individuals including wealth managers, consultants, funders, lawyers and other financial intermediaries. We start with the landscape, language and themes of impact and then move on to how to find and evaluate deals and funds and how to measure impact.  We then look at portfolio construction and innovative financing structures as well as how to build strategies with clients and within institutions and the ins and outs of starting a fund.  Finally, we do a site visit to local enterprises that have received impact investment and are at the scale stage as well as visiting a set of incubators to spend time discussing the very early deal stage and what is needed.

Are there any resources on Impact Investing specific to the African context?

We have also been working on a number of case studies focused on impact investment in Africa. When we started there were almost no cases on the topic. It took us nearly a year and resulted in 14 cases (we’ve since developed 5 more).  I worked with an exceptional case writer and even roped in a few students.  The cases feature eighteen impact enterprises and sixteen funds from eleven countries across the continent and are shared in partnership with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. One of our cases won the 2016 CEEMAN case writing competition.  The cases are now used in our course and across the globe in dozens of other institutions.

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation has an Innovative Financing Initiative that does projects with funders around the globe, convenes events and gathering, conducts research and enables teaching across the entirety of UCT.  We teach Impact Investing / Innovative Finance across all of our programs as either an elective or a core course.

What have been some of your successes?

It’s been so incredible to watch our alumni from the past two courses.  They’ve gone on to start their own funds and start funds within foundations and banks and development organizations.  They’ve also put impact investment practices into place at large institutions such as consulting firms, law firms and real estate practices.  One of the things that I’ve enjoyed is seeing how they support one another as an alumni group.  Several alums with significant experience now sit on the board of younger alums’ funds and organizations.  We also get a lot of new students through our alumni. We also see a large demand from international development organizations and non-profits keen to be involved as investors to ensure better sustainability for themselves and their underlying projects.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Spend a significant amount of time getting your curriculum and your mix of speakers correct.  There needs to be one strong convenor pulling the whole thing together that understands how the content should flow and how to tie it all together.  There are more and more options for curriculum available, so you don’t need to create your own, but you do need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your students.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are holding our 3rd course from the 13th – 17th of November 2017.  We have 40 participants signed up from 15 countries.  I’m very excited about the participants this year.  I think we will always cap it at 40 as I don’t want it to get too large and take away from the experience, but it is amazing to grow the alumni base.

Student Leadership in Promoting Impact Investment on Campus – IESE Business School

IESE Business School in Spain hosts an annual Impact Investing Competition as part of their Doing Good Doing Well conference. The Competition, which is now going into its 7th year, brings together teams from leading business schools across Europe. Now students at IESE are taking it one step further. They have recently come together to raise money to create the school’s first 100% student managed impact investment fund. I spoke with Luca Venza and current MBA Students Rachel Messina and Michael Davis about this initiative.

(This post is part of Impact Investing month on PRiMEtime. Click here to access more posts on Impact Investing).

What is IESE’s Impact Investing Competition and how did it come about?

The Impact Investing Competition (IIC) is a dynamic competition that guides participants through the key phases of impact investment including due diligence, term sheet development and negotiations with real-world entrepreneurs and a panel of impact investment professionals acting as the Investment Board. We ask all schools to hold internal rounds with the winner going to IESE for the final. The top business schools in Europe compete alongside top schools from Asia and often the U.S. at the IESE final round. The teams are judged by the entrepreneurs and impact investment professionals invited for the event. This competition started about 6 years ago due to the passion of IESE Professors and Students, eager to expand the understanding of Impact Investing, especially as it changes dramatically into a maturing asset class. The competition is part of our annual Doing Good and Doing Well conference which we organize annually which brings together 50+ speakers and 500+ attendees.

How is the competition organised and how do students participate?

The competition is designed to simulate the impact investment process as closely as possible within an accelerated timeframe. Each participating school first organizes an internal round to nominate the representing team for the final round, which takes place on the IESE campus. A few days in advance of the competition day, teams will receive information about the investment opportunities, which are typically 3 real impact startups identified by the competition organizing team. On the day of the event teams arrive early in the morning to prepare for a fast-paced series of simulation rounds, which are each judged by the panel of real impact investment professionals and entrepreneurs. The exact schedule may change slightly year-to-year, but generally it goes as follows: 1) entrepreneurs pitch their companies in front of all teams 2) due diligence sessions take place between each team and entrepreneurs (judged round 1) 3) teams choose which investment to make and prepare term sheets 4) teams present their term sheets and investment decision in front of the investment committee to win approval of the board (judged round 2) 5) teams negotiate terms with the entrepreneurs in front of the judges (round 3) 6) Judges vote on winning team and the day concludes with an awards ceremony and networking cocktail. 

Why do you think it is important for students to understand impact investing?

Although relatively new and still a small sector, impact investing resonates well with MBA students because they see the connection between private sector, for-profit strategies and the generation of positive social and environmental impact. More and more individuals would like to align their investment decisions with their personal values. Most importantly, many students (and professionals) want to make the world a better place while investing, and are even willing to accept a lower return. The good news is that some studies show that impact portfolios are resulting in higher returns than the average portfolio. It’s also a fun way to learn about typical Venture Capital deals which is useful for Investors and Entrepreneurs alike.  

What have been some of the successes? I would say that we have been successful in two ways. First, by bring on actual social entrepreneurs to compete in this event, we help prepare them for professional fundraising outreach. Our students have a similar skillset to most investors and highlight many of the questions that will be key for entrepreneurs to understand while raising funds. They value getting practice with our students in a “low-risk” environment. Second, the impact on students is to give them a small but practical insight to the sector to help them understand their relative value to the sector and start to network with actual investors on the Investment Board. It is still a small sector in the sense of MBA recruitment so all contact and experience helps.

Challenges?

The competition is organised by students (generally the winning team of the previous year), so it’s important to ensure good handover and transition every year. Busy MBA schedules certainly make this challenging, but the opportunity to organise such an event is a great learning experience and also provides networking opportunities for students to develop relationships with impact investment professionals. Each year student organisers aim to find new entrepreneurs to feature in the competition, and the research and sourcing process of these companies takes a significant amount of time and effort.

What’s next?

In 2017, a group of graduating students founded the school’s first impact investment vehicle, the IESE For Impact Community fund (IFIC). This year’s organising IIC team is also acting as the Board of Directors for the new IFIC fund and will be going through the first real investment process. IFIC was established for three primary reasons: one is impact, supporting businesses driven by an aim to positively impact society; the second is learning, providing hands-on and valuable experience for students; the third is to put the IESE mission into practice, in line with our school’s objective to educate leaders with the highest ethical standards. IFIC will invest in and provide consulting services for impact startups—enterprises that demonstrate that positive social and/or environmental impact is an intentional and integral part of the business model. The winning internal team of IIC will have the opportunity to act as the next year’s IFIC Board, and we believe there will be opportunities in the future to consider the IIC investment opportunities for actual investment via IFIC.

Any tips for others looking to organise a similar competition? Get in touch with the IESE organising team. We are looking for collaborators to create a global competition with regional semi-final rounds similar to the Venture Capital Competition, VCIC. Identify champions within your community, starting with your school’s faculty who should be able to share their network to invite judges and help find financial partners / sponsors.

 

Fostering Discussions around Impact Investing Internally and Externally – Sauder School of Business

This month PRiMEtime is exploring different ways that business schools are engaging in Impact Investing, whether that is through their teaching, extra curricular activities, research or events.

I recently had the chance to speak with Christie Stephenson, the Executive Director of the Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Canada about the work that they are doing around Impact Investing and Responsible Investing. Her center, which became operational in 2016 and has a major focus on responsible investing, works in close collaboration with UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation and Impact Investing, which was formed in 2007.

 

Why impact investing? Why is it important that students learn about impact investing?

Impact investing is a fundamental shift in thinking about how profits and societal/ environmental good relate to each other. It rejects the notion that the two outcomes are mutually exclusive. Today, many business students come into university truly wanting to make a positive impact on society. Yet they’re studying business and their interest is in business – not necessarily charity or non-profit management. Impact investing provides another channel/avenue to work in global issues other than traditional charities that allows them combine their interest in business with their desire to create social impact. Incorporating environmental, social and governance considerations in investment decision making is also a major trend with retail and institutional investors and therefore it is more important than ever that students understand this. This traditionally gets referred to as Responsible Investing. Some people consider responsible investing a type of impact investing, other people consider impact investing a type of responsible investing. At UBC Sauder we tend to describe them as different, but closely connected, types of social finance.

 

What are some of the interesting research that the Centre has been doing around impact investing or is planning to do?

The UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing (SauderS3i), which was formed in 2007, focuses in large part on impact investing, as the name suggests. SauderS3i is best explained by using a demand and supply model. It creates demand for impact investment capital by incubating successful social enterprises through the iHub program and it coordinates the supply of impact investment capital through working in partnership with the Pacific Impact Investor Network (PIIN). The Centre works with PIIN members to help them understand issues more thoroughly as well as how impact investing can play a role in their portfolios. The Dhillon Centre focuses specifically on responsible investing within the impact investing spectrum. This can be described as the integration of environmental, social and governance risk and opportunity considerations in public markets investing, whether that’s retail or institutional. One of the Centre’s four pillars is research and recruitment is currently underway for a lead academic to develop this pillar.

 

How are students engaged in impact investing? What kind of opportunities do they have?

Every summer, SauderS3i hires several interns to work on Impact Investing projects commissioned to us through PIIN members. They range from in-depth analysis projects on specific issues (water, education, housing etc.) to providing insights into impact investing portfolio construction.

The Dhillon Centre also hires a number of part time students. As well, with SFU Beedie Business School it hosts a free two-day workshop on responsible investment for students. We also host a variety of events for students including recent panels and workshops on topics such as “Careers in Social Finance” and “Impact Investing as a Major Philanthropic Trend”.

We currently also have opportunities within the curriculum including an elective on Impact Investing: Social Finance in the 21st Century that ran for the first time last year. In the past we have organized a range of events for students including an Impact Investing Competition.

 

What have been some of your successes?

SauderS3i has been working on creating one of the first university-based seed-stage funds. UBC has a strong entrepreneurial culture and a number of rockstar social entrepreneurs through our iHub programme (for example Wize Monkey, Arbutus Medical and Alinker). The impact fund aims to provide seed-stage funding to enterprises that are ready to make the next step from an early-stage idea to scaling growth and operations. On the research front, we’re extremely interested in how impact investing venture capital differs from traditional “Silicon Valley” venture capital. Unlike tech start-ups (like Facebook, Google, Uber), not many social enterprises will have traditional exits like IPO or get sold to another company. So we’re looking at how deal structures can be designed to respect this different dynamic, and at the same time create returns for investors.

Both Centres do a lot of work to foster discussions around Impact Investing in the community. This includes hosting meetings to bring together impact investors in Vancouver and events open to the public. For instance this month, the Dhillon Centre co-hosted an event with the SFU Beedie School of Business called “Reconciliation: A New Relationship for Investors” which explored how investors can take into account how companies work with indigenous people and communities.

Sauder S3i’s executive director, James Tansey, is on the Federal Social Finance and Social Innovation Co-Creation Steering Group that is charting out what’s next for Canada’s social finance market. The Dhillon Centre has been invited to speak on impact investing and responsible investing at numerous industry events over the past year, including those hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society, the Responsible Investment Association of Canada, the Conference Board of Canada, and the International Corporate Governance Network, among others.

 

What’s next?

After five years of successful collaboration between Coast Capital Savings Credit Union and UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing, the iHub is moving on to the next stage of our journey. Starting in November 2017 the iHub social venture accelerator will become an integral part of entrepreneurship@UBC which is the venture accelerator at the University of British Columbia.

Sauder S3i is continually trying to build the impact investing market in Vancouver and western Canada. In the coming months, it will be refining and improving its relationship with PIIN and launching a new investor portal / public impact investing resource guide (www.impactinvestmentforum.com).

The Dhillon Centre is supporting the development of more social finance content within the academic curriculum. We are a member of the iInternational Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium which held its first in-person meeting this summer in Chicago and appears have great potential as a collective effort to support the advance of impact and responsible investment as an academic discipline.

 

What are your favourite resources around impact investing? Are there any other impact investing programmes at other schools that you admire?

Anyone interested in impact investing must subscribe to ImpactAlpha’s Daily Brief. You’ll never be out of the loop once you’ve subscribed.

The Impact Terms Project is also very useful. It has a great library of useful concepts related to private equity/ venture capital in impact investing.

Oxford University’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship has been a real leader in this space, although they have less of an emphasis on impact investing.

In terms of responsible investing sources, in Canada the best single source is the Responsible Investment Association of Canada. Internationally it may be the Principles for Responsible Investment. There are also some leading practitioners worth following, such as Sustainalytics, NEI Investments, and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE).

 

Any advice for other schools looking at exploring impact investing?

Simply put, it would be “get up to speed sooner rather than later”. Impact and responsible investing are major trends that are changing not only the nature of our capital markets but have the potential for the kind of social and environmental impact that is absolutely critical to people and the planet. With the values shifts taking place because of demographic changes, there isn’t a business school out there that shouldn’t be looking at how to integrate these subjects into their curriculum and activities.

 

 

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