Empowered to make positive change: Impact Investing Symposium 2020

Allison Barudin, MBA ’21, is the co-coordinator of the 2020 Impact Investing Symposium, sponsored by WashU Olin’s chapter of Net Impact and organized by students from Olin and the Brown School. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

“We’re at a tipping point, and investment capital is only part of the formula. We need businesses to be responsible and collaborative. We need you, as a next-gen community, to get out and vote to assert your civic obligations. Asserting your interest through how you allocate your money for consumption, how you allocate your money to banks, and how you invest. This really matters.”

Peter Lupoff, CEO, Net Impact

Peter Lupoff, CEO of Net Impact, opened the fifth annual Impact Investing Symposium on Friday, October 2, to an audience of more than 100 attendees.

The Annual Impact Investing Symposium (IIS), an initiative of Olin’s Graduate Net Impact chapter, is led by a cohort of Olin and Brown School students dedicated to transforming the business sector into a space for actionable and positive social change.

Impact investments are financial investments intentionally made to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. IIS is proud to be the largest impact investing conference in the Midwest.

Our programming seeks to challenge traditional views on the role of capital. What if there was a way to use our economic engine to solve our world’s most pressing social challenges—to create a more equitable, sustainable and just world?

This year, our traditional one-day in-person symposium shifted to an online four-part series, attracting leading experts from sectors including financial services, asset management, government, nonprofits and philanthropy to a diverse audience now able to tune in from across the country.

Friday’s kick-off session began with Lupoff’s Impact Investing 101 presentation. Lupoff shared key terminology, trends, investment vehicles and frameworks in impact investing.

Next, Jake Barnett, manager, sustainable investment services at Wespath, led a panel entitled “Building an Impact Portfolio” featuring portfolio managers from Kennedy Capital, Nuveen and Aperio Group, discussing the practical (and sometimes challenging) application of different impact investing strategies.

Does putting solar panels on an oil rig makes it a green investment? Jessica Zarzycki of Nuveen declares adamantly: “No.”

But Liz Michaels of Aperio Group challenged that perspective: “Thinking of ‘impact portfolios’ is like a big tent. Every toe matters, even if the impact is small. We need all the different types of toes in the tent.” To her, solar panels on an oil rig is a step toward incremental change. 

There are three upcoming opportunities to learn more about the industry’s most relevant topics. Attendees will leave the sessions armed with the skills to be a critical consumer, understand the power of intentionality and collective impact, and empowered to advocate within their own sphere of influence to make positive change.

Join the next three sessions:

  • October 23: Investing with a racial equity lens and innovative financing solutions
  • November 13: Impact investing in emerging markets and local investing for impact
  • December 11: COVID-19 and impact investing

Learn more about the symposium’s speakers and register.

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