Special Feature October: Impact Investing at Business Schools, What’s happening and why you should be taking note

Traditional finance students are perhaps the most sceptical when it comes to sustainability, often failing to see the relevance to them and to their careers. But this is changing significantly. Impact investing is now not only a tool that business students around the world are learning about, but a growing number of opportunities are being created for students to go beyond just learning about it to actually engaging in it.

Over the month of October Primetime will be exploring the range of Impact Investing opportunities that exist at universities around the world. We will include a mix of summaries of different competitions, courses, centres and other opportunities being developed at business schools globally (both signatories and non signatories) as well as a range of in depth features of initiatives from Advanced Signatory Schools.

So what is impact investing? The Global Impact Investing Network defines impact investing as investments that are made in companies, organisations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impacts alongside a financial return.” On a global scale, impact investments under management are worth about US$77.4billion and it is forecast to reach $2 trillion by 2025 (GIIN).

These courses are fast becoming the most popular on campus, not just for finance students but for students interested in consulting, industry and even NGOs. There are also a wide range of career options for students interested in and knowledgeable about impact investing.

While many of the initiatives at business schools in this space are relatively young, the business sector has been exploring impact investing for some time now. In this first post we look at a few resources on impact investing that provide a good introduction and overview of the subject.

The Global Impact Investing Network drives thought leadership on a number of key themes within the impact investing network. Recent work is focused on the role of impact investing in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Among their work is IRIS, a catalogue of generally accepted performance metrics that leading impact investors use to measure social, environmental, and financial success, a searchable online database of impact investment funds and a career centre with impact investing job openings. They also have a good primer on what you need to know about impact investing.

In 2014 the G8 produced a report called Impact Investment: The Invisible Heart of Markets about harnessing the power of entrepreneurship, innovation and capital for public good. The Global Social Impact Investment Steering Group, a successor to the work of the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, was established in 2015 to increase momentum by promoting a unified view of impact investment. Its members include 13 countries plus the EU as well as observers from governments and organisations supportive of impact investing. The following site contains videos of the keynotes and panel discussions from the G8 Social Impact Investment Forum in 2013. The World Economic Forum has also produced some work around impact investing including From the Margins to the Mainstream: Assessment of the Impact Investment Sector and Opportunities to Engage Mainstream Investors.

The Global Compact’s A Framework for Action: Social Enterprise and Impact Investing (2012) aims to assist investors, corporations and public policymakers in understanding how to navigate the social enterprise and impact investing space by prioritizing the rationale for engaging, defining a strategy and finally choosing specific approaches to execute. The UNDP Social Impact Fund is a co-investment platform where investors can use blended financial models to create both economic and social dividends. Within the UN family, UNEP has also produced resources around what they call positive impact including a Positive Impact Manifesto.

The MacArthur Foundation and Beeck Centre for social impact and innovation at Georgetown University produced a report on Impact Investing Education and Training which outlines some of the research being done in impact investing at universities globally. Another similar report was produced by the MacArthur Foundation and Said Business School at Oxford University called The Landscape of Social Impact Investment Research: Trends and Opportunities.

There are also a number of organisations that focus specifically on impact investing in different countries. For example the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in Canada has been organising the Social Finance Forum for the past 10 years that brings together 400 entrepreneurs and investors and the US Forum for Sustainable And Responsible Investing that recently published a report on impact investing trends in the US.

A few examples of impact investing already covered on Primetime include:



Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Canada and Nigeria

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Canada and Nigeria:

Oreva Agajere, Lagos Business School, Nigeria

Wecyclers is a social enterprise in Lagos Nigeria with an interesting business model for combating pollution and encouraging recycling. Wecyclers offers convenient household recycling service using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes. They are powering social change using the environment by allowing people in low-income communities to capture value from their waste.

Adcem Healthcare is an indigenous technology and innovation driven healthcare company which builds kidney dialysis centres in public and private hospitals in Nigeria. Adcem also supports the hospitals in running the centres effectively. They have created a unique niche in Nigeria’s health sector by innovatively leveraged partnerships with private organisations to bring healthcare services to those who ordinarily cannot afford it.

Doreo Partner’s Babban Gona is an impact investment firm focused on early stage businesses that improve the livelihoods of Nigerian smallholder farmers. Their farmers’ initiative ‘Babban Gona’ (“Great Farm” in Hausa language) is an agricultural franchise that enables hardworking smallholder farmers reach their full potential by providing end-to-end services that optimise yields and labor productivity, while simultaneously improving market access.

Frank Ulbrich, University of the Fraser Valley, Canada

Net Zero waste is committed to closing the loop on the food cycle. They have a unique system for utilising the organic waste produced in households and commercial operations, transforming this nutrient rich material into supercharged soil for use for gardens and farms. As food waste is such a huge problem in North America, finding local companies who are taking action, while limiting the amount of pollution released in the conversion process, is worthy of note.

EcoDairy is an authentic farm experience that simultaneously showcases innovations in dairy sustainability and efficiency. As agriculture is a major cornerstone of the economy in the Fraser Valley, it is important for these organisations to also do everything they can to embrace sustainable practices. EcoDairy is phenomenal in that not only are they inspiring young minds to develop an active interest in farming, but also in innovation for the food and agriculture industry and other facets of science and technology.

Nature’s Path Foods is a local organic, fair trade and non-GMO food producer with products ranging from cereal to grains and granola bars. They are also the largest independent manufacturer of organic breakfast and snack foods in North America. They have signed the Sustainable Food Trade Association’s declaration of sustainability and work to keep their customers healthy as well as their business operations. Their social responsibility includes accomplishments such as: diverting 92% of their waste from landfills, and keeping 204,000 lbs of chemical pesticides out of the soil. Nature’s Path Foods was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers in 2015.

Dr. Wendy Cukier , Ryerson University, Canada

Magnet is an online career matching platform currently serving 90,000 job seekers and over 9,000 employers that helps to combat discrimination in hiring processes through skills-based employment connections. The platform allows job seekers to privately and securely self-identify as a member of any employment equity group, promoting diversity and supporting bias-free recruitment strategies.

Starbucks Canada has partnered with Hire Immigrants on a refugee employment initiative that will recruit, train and retain 1,000 refugee employees through its local community networks in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. This initiative sends a strong message to other employers of the value of diversity to their company and the importance of building bridges for successful refugee resettlement.

Scadding Court Community Centre (SCCC) uses income from social innovations to reduce its reliance on government grants and increase the sustainability of its local economic and social development in downtown Toronto. SCCC’s innovative initiatives include Business Out of the Box (BoB), which uses shipping containers to provide affordable commercial spaces to low income and newcomer business owners; and Aquaponics 707, which uses closed-loop urban farming systems to train and employ under-educated youths in new urban farming technology while selling affordable organic fish and produce.


A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability and Ethics for September 2017 (Part 2 of 2)

UNESCO Systems Thinking Course

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses starting in September 2017, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools. Click here to read Part 1.

Social Impact

Becoming a change maker: Introduction to Social Innovation – This course is for students either in the field of social innovation, working for an organisation that wants to increase its social impact or just starting out. It explores the skills, tools and methodologies that will help. University of Cape Town – Starts September 18

Social Impact Strategy: This course offers an introduction to social impact strategy and social entrepreneurs, including key concepts, an overview of the fields, and tools to get started as a change maker. Students will learn how to innovate and design new ideas, and new organisation forms to implement those ideas. University of Pennsylvania – Starts September 4.

Become a Social Entrepreneur – In this series of courses students will learn how to create societal impact through Social Entrepreneurship. Students work in teams to study a problematic issue to learn more about the source of the problem and develop and idea and business plan around it. Copenhagen Business School – September 4.

Social Enterprise: Growing a Sustainable Business: This course is for anyone who wants to understand how to scale and sustain a social enterprise, how to evaluate and diagnose your current business model, identify your challenges and develop strategies to grow your social enterprise and evaluate its impact . Middlesex University London – Enrol now.

Development and Funding

Financing and Investing in Infrastructure – This course looks at how debt and equity can be used to finance infrastructure investments and how investors approach infrastructure investments. Bocconi – Starts September 4.

Financing for Development: Unlocking Investment Opportunities – This course introduces students to the critical role of the private sector and the use of finance, including innovative solutions to fund the Sustainable Development Goals, to help meet the World Bank Group goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030. World Bank Group – Enrol anytime.

Development and Humanitarian Action – This course provides students with the analytical skills needed to understand the contexts of development and humanitarian programmes as well as practical skills to apply in the field. Deakin University – Enrol now.

Global Systems Science and Policy – This course explores the main elements of Global Systems Science and how it can inform and model the impact of social, economic, political and environmental policy making taking interdisciplinary approaches and engages citizens. UNESCO – September 4.

Subsistence Marketplaces – This course aims to help students develop an understanding of marketplace activity in the radically different context of subsistence where much of humanity resides and survives, and for them to design solutions that can be implemented by individuals, businesses, and social enterprises through economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable products for subsistence marketplaces. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Started August 28.

Debt Sustainability Analysis – This course aims to provide a comprehensive overview of debt sustainability analysis and a medium-term debt management strategy framework adopted by the IMF and the World Bank. IMF – Starts October 2.

Gender and Development – This course explores the gendered dimensions of contemporary international and community development and ultimately learn how and why gender is so important. Deakin University – Enrol now.


Unethical Business Making in Organisations – This course explores how strong organisational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions and how to respond to these. University of Lausanne – Starts September 18.

People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society – In this course students will be supported in reflecting on the value of ethical thinking for research and discover an ethical appraisal framework that you can apply to empirical research projects in social science, arts, education and the humanities. University of Leicester – Starts September 18.

EU Ethics – This course covers the relationship of EU law and ethics, both in general, as well as in selected sensitive fields of affirmative action (non-discrimination), surrogacy (rent-a-womb and human dignity) and the current topic of migration. MCI Management Center Innsbruck – Starts November 20, 2017.

Ethical Social Media – This course explores online identify, social media communities and their users and the most common ethical debates relating to them. University of Sydney – Starts September 18.

Military Ethics: An Introduction – This course explores how military professionals are unusual in having the use of lethal force as a central, defining feature of their role, and unique in the level of force that they are authorised to use which places considerable ethical either on military practionners as well as the civilian decision makers who authorise their missions. UNSW Canberra – Starts October 9.

Human Rights – This course explores human rights ideas and practices at the local, national and international levels from a multi-displinary perspective including education, health, law, social work and development work in both the public and private sector. Curtin University – Enrol anytime.

A Selection of MOOCs on Sustainability and Ethics for September 2017 (Part 1 of 2)

UNESCO Systems Thinking Course

Every year there is an increase in the number of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available on sustainability topics. These courses are available for free online and open to anyone with an interest in the topic, lasting between three and fourteen weeks and taking three to eight hours per week to complete. Below is a selection of such courses starting in September 2017, listed by topic, from PRME as well as some non-signatory schools.


Strategy and Sustainability – This course explores how all business must have a strategy to deal with sustainability and, like any strategy, this involves making choices by filtering out the noise and make them in a clear-eyed way. IESE Business School – Started August 28.

Managing Responsibility: Practicing Sustainability Responsibility and Ethics: This course explores the range of issues that managers are increasingly confronted with and how to deal competently with such challenges. University of Manchester – Starts September 4.

Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future – This course focuses on how new technologies can make supply chains more sustainable and learn how to deal with today’s trends. University of Twente – Enrol now.

The Science and Practice of Sustainable Development – This course introduces the origin and key concepts of sustainability and how to apply those to sustainable development practice. University of Queensland – Enrol anytime.

Making an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals – This course covers the basic definitions and history of sustainable development and sustainability in business – from a niche interest to the present day. University of Bath – Starts October 23.

Sustainability through Soccer: Systems-Thinking in Action – This course takes learners on a journey through a progression of systems-thinking and sustainability concepts using the game of soccer as an analogy. University of Virginia – Starts September 4.

Systems Thinking and Complexity – This course addresses the practical problems that arise in social systems in the context of management and public policy at local, regional and global levels. It is problem-oriented, providing you with both the theoretical understanding and practical tools, to find and implement solutions to organisational and social problems. UNESCO – Starts September 4.

Circular Economy An Introduction – This course explores the Circular economy: how business can create value by reusing and recycling products, how designers can come up with amazingly clever solutions and how you students can contribute to make the Circular Economy happen. TU Delft – Enrol anytime.

Environment, cities and climate change

Greening the Economy: Sustainable Cities – This course explores sustainable cities as engines for greening the economy. It connects to key trends in urbanisation, decarbonisation and sustainability. Lund University Starts September 11.

Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs – This course describes specific solutions to the vexing urban challenges we all face and students can see how these ideas might be applied in their own areas. They focus on the conceptual framework of ecodesign, see real examples and come to understand the tools, processes and techniques for policy development and implementation. University of British Columbia – Enrol anytime.

Global Environmental Management – This course explores the best environmental technologies for a sustainable development and how they are managed in various settings around the world. Technical University of Denmark – Starts September 11.

Climate Change Mitigation in Developing Countries – This course challenges students to consider how one might lift societies out of poverty while also mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and explore the inherent complexity of developing country government wanting to grow their economies in a climate friendly way. University of Cape Town – Starts October 2.

Climate Change – This course explores how climate change will affect us, why we should care about it, and what solutions we can employ. Macquarie University – Starts September 11.

Elements of Renewable Energy – This course explores renewable energy using the four Greek elements as weekly themes: earth (renewable energy sources), air (wind power), fire (solar) and water (hydropower). The Open University – Starts September 11.

Landscape Restoration for Sustainable Development a Business Approach – This course looks at how integrated landscape management and large scale landscape restoration should be in every company’s business strategy in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal on Land Degradation Neutrality. Erasmus University Rotterdam – Starts 18.

Water Resource Management and Policy –The course explores the main issues and strategies linked to water resource management and understand the many variables (environmental, institutional and political), which affect water and which, in terms of management, may require adjustment. Public University of Geneva – Started August 28.

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Poland, Australia and Colombia

As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Poland, Australia and Colombia

Anna Szelagowska, Warsaw School of Economics, Poland

IZODOM 2000 POLSKA Sp. z o.o.– the Polish company has specialised in developing new solutions for quick erection of energy efficient buildings. The Izodom products are widely used in modern passive and low-energy houses, greatly reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Proprietary, legally protected solutions applied in the Izodom forms cause that their technology is perceived as one of the most advanced in Europe.

SOLARIS Bus & Coach SA – the Polish company is a major European producer of city, intercity and special-purpose buses as well as low-floor trams. Since the start of production in 1996, over 15 000 vehicles have already left the factory in Bolechowo near Poznań. They are running in 31 countries. Despite its young age, Solaris has become one of the trendsetting companies in its industry.

SEEDiA – the Polish start-up creating eco-friendly products powered by renewable energy sources. Their solar benches, stands and other products utilize the energy they gather for charging mobile devices (with USB ports and wireless chargers), Wi-Fi hotspots, heated seats, radio, LEDs and paper screens. Their furniture is being used in public spaces, shopping centres, airports and hotels.


Michaela Rankin, Monash Business School, Australia

Kindling is a fashion design company based in Melbourne who have their garments made in Vietnam. They adopt a sustainable and ethical approach to clothing manufacture and production. “All of our clothing is made carefully and skillfully by professional seamstresses we know personally in Vietnam. Each piece is cut then sewn by one person from beginning to end. While this may not be the fastest way to do things, it does mean that there is a certain hand finished quality and attention to detail across the whole garment and we feel this is worth paying extra and waiting longer for.”

Crepes for Change’ was started by a student at Monash University. It is a crepes food truck company that is run by volunteers. Profits go towards helping alleviate homelessness in Melbourne.

 eWater Systems is an Australian owned company that supplies electrolysis units to generate simple, sustainable and highly effective alternatives to harmful packaged chemical cleaners and sanitisers. They are registered as a B Corp.

Maria Alejandra Gonzalez-Preez, EAFIT, Columbia

EPM is a provider of water, natural gas and energy in Colombia and has made sustainability a core part of their strategy. They were previously aligning their policies with the Millenium Development Goals and now with the Sustainabile Development Goals and have campaigns to engage the public and their customers in these issues. As part of that strategy they also joined the United Nations Global Compact.

Grupo Sura works in investment banking, asset management and insurance services internationally. They too are members of the Global Compact are are on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, the main index provider for companies performance evaluation that ocnsiders economic, enviornmental and social aspects.

ISA is an electric utility company also headquartered here. They aim to be as transparent as possible and have several programmes focused on stakeholders and contributing to the development of the societies in which they operate.

Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – Sweden, India and Brazil

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Here are some examples from Sweden, India and Brazil

Elizabeth Mary Barratt, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

Filippa K has developed a new business model based on sustainability which includes integrating circular economies in their value chain as well as their “Lease the Look” trial where they are testing the sharing economy trend by leasing out their clothes.

Max Hamburgers are nudging their customers with information to choose the most sustainable burger alternative, along with significantly expanding their vegetarian alternatives.

Axel Johnson AB has set a measurable target that their management will have at least 50% women in their companies, along with at least 20% with an international now-Swedish passport.

Dr Kasturi Das, Institute of Management Technology, India

Jayaashree Industries provides low cost sanitary napkins to rural women who cannot afford them because they are sold at a premium price as well as l sanitary napkins making machines which can produce the napkins at low cost to encourage the development of local entrepreneurs.

Goonj recycles discarded clothes and household goods into useful products for the poor. It collects and delivers 1,000 tons of materials a year through a network of hundreds of volunteers and partners. It also runs local development projects in villages and slum areas.

Julio Cesar Borges, FEA-RP/USP, Brazil

Votorantim Cimentos, a Brazilian cement company, is working with one of our alumnus on embedding sustainability into large projects taking place in an extremely poor region of the country.

CPFL, a Brazilian energy company, has been working with some of our professors to develop sustainable solutions for the energy sector. They outline their targets and progress of the targets on their website.

Celebrating Student Achievements at FEA-RP/USP

As we have seen over the past month on PRiMEtime, the students themselves are often the drivers of new ideas and change on campus relating to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and PRME. Their energy and willingness to get involved and engaged can lead to some exciting new initiatives and programmes. At FEA-RP/USP in Brazil, students created the Sustainable Student Organisation Awards to annually support student projects relating to sustainability, PRME and the SDGs. I spoke with Julio Cesar Borges and Professor Adriana Caldana at the University about this initiative.

Why is it important to engage students in the SDGs on campus?

The time that students are at university is a crucial time to form responsible leaders. Students complete the course and most of them do not return to academia. They will follow their professional life in companies, NGOs, personal etc.. Therefore it is crucial that we educate them about the SDGs and sustainability issues during their time with us. The interest in sustainable projects has been growing every year spontaneously among students. The school and some professors are facilitating actors of this emerging phenomenon. 

What are the Sustainable Students Organisation Awards?

There are nine student organisations at FEA-RP/USP who have been a major drive in promoting the SDGs on campus. These groups are self-managed and offer hundreds of engagement opportunities to students across campus. In September, the Sustainability Office in collaboration with the students created the Sustainable Students Organisation Awards (2nd edition). Its intention is to promote projects that are current in progress and stimulate the creation of others.

This year the competition was to create a video of up to three minutes, demonstrating a sustainable project related to the Sustainable Development Goals and how these projects have impacted the lives of people. The next challenge was to disseminate the videos on Facebook and social media in order to publicise the SDGs, the student projects and the importance of systemic and responsible vision in a school of management that occupies a position of prominence and national recognition.

Describe one of the projects

The winning student organization was the Financial Market Club and their “Nest Egg Project” (Projeto Pe de Meia). 59 million Brazilians are defaulters and 81% know little to nothing about personal finances. The project delivers financial education in a dynamic and intuitive way. It has been active in 7 states and 16 cities across the country and has already served 5000 people. There are two strands of this project. First the work with children and adolescents and second with executives and workers from the most diverse sectors of the economy. The goal of the project is really to bring financial education to everyone.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

The main challenges is being able to change the mindset of students, and staff in relation to sustainability and business. The more the students get engaged, the more successes we are seeing as they have a significant impact not just on other students but on the staff as well. Hundreds of people were impacted by the student projects presented in the videos. In a one week period there were over 7,800 views and 1,700 involvements (likes, comments, shares). The final stage of the challenge involved representatives of the student organization presenting the videos to a judging commission composed of teachers, professionals and a doctoral student. The Dean of the college delivered personally the trophy to the winners.

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

Provide students with freedom of expression and action, autonomy, and protect and encourage genuine and spontaneous action. Be sure to respect the differences while also promoting and recognising student´s achievements. The school also plays the important role of listening to the criticism it receives (even if it is inappropriate), to mediate conflicts and to provide additional resources and support where possible.

What is next for the initiative?

The “Sustainable Students Organisation Awards” will be continued in the coming years. We will focus on obtaining sponsorship and recognition of companies engaged in sustainable development. We will also be working to get more participation of students and professors.


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