On Friday, November 13, the Responsible Investing Conference and Low-Carbon Portfolio Case Competition will take place at the Yale School of Management. Last year’s competition brought together 11 teams from top MBA programs around the world, renowned faculty, and top experts in the field to tackle the technical and ethical aspects of fossil fuel divestment from university endowments. We were proud to tap into the creativity, passion, and expertise of talented MBA students and professionals, and the result was an event that delved deep into the moral and economic considerations of investing responsibly. This year, as a result of the success of last year’s case competition, we are expanding the event into a full conference exploring a wide array of topics in the responsible investing universe. The conference will focus on educating future leaders in responsible investing and include panels on ESG Integration and the Use of Metrics and Global Trends in Clean Energy Investment.
What is the future of responsible investing, and what challenges will it present to investors and other stakeholders?
Ira Ehrenpreis, managing partner at DBL Partners and a member of Tesla Motors’ board of directors said at the Responsible Investing Conference on November 13 that venture capital funds are increasingly backing entrepreneurs with long-term visions for environmental solutions. These entrepreneurs view their work not only as a business, but also as a social good, he said.
“Today, they want their next chapter not to be divorced from how they’re going to make money and how they’re going to live their lives,” Ehrenpreis said. “Look at a guy like Elon Musk, who was working with PayPal about 15 years ago. Today, his entire focus is about combining business with a purpose-driven approach. At DBL, we’re partnering with entrepreneurs who are passionate about both the first bottom line of building a profitable business with the second bottom line of impact in changing the world.”
Ehrenpreis spoke as part of a panel discussion that also included Deborah Spalding, chief investment officer for the State of Connecticut; and Sonal Mahida, senior consultant for the U.S. Strategic Project at U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment.
For Spalding, responsible investing means ensuring all benefit obligations to state pensioners are met while also seeking to achieve social good. As chief investment officer for the State of Connecticut, Spalding said, she is guided by laws mandating that the State Treasurer consider the environmental and social implications of all investments. But the Treasurer’s Office must balance this mandate with the need to deliver competitive returns for the state’s pension fund.
“We have obligations well into the future, and we have to make sure that our investment returns are sufficient to meet those,” Spalding said. “Our responsibility to environmental investments is built into our state statutes. I think that because it’s in there, and not just a ‘belief statement’, that certainly gives it some staying power.”
The conference also included a keynote address by Frances Beinecke YC ’71, FES ’74, former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a member of the Yale SOM Board of Advisors, and John Streur, president & CEO of Calvert Investments. Students from MBA programs around the country competed in the second annual Low-Carbon Portfolio Case Competition. A team of students from Duke and the University of North Carolina took home the top prize.