The CU Denver Net Impact Student Chapter and Managing for Sustainability program from the Business School co-hosted a special panel event on Thursday, April 27, 2017 on “Impact Investing, Corporate Sustainability, and Micro-Lending.” Net Impact provides a forum for students to make a positive impact by to take on social and environmental challenges for the greater good. The goal of the impact-investing panel was to provide a better understanding for students of different forms of investing and sustainable management that make a positive difference.

Three expert panelists presented including:

Elias BachmannElias Bachmann, Director Private Investments, BSW Wealth Partners, who discussed different types of impact investing including: (1) socially responsible investment (SRI) with negative screening to eliminate bad companies to do no harm; (2) environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in portfolio selection, screening for the best or eliminating the worst; and (3) triple bottom line (TBL) considerations. Impact investors choose investments to generate financial returns, but also to integrate social and environmental factors into investment decisions. Impact investing has become much more mainstream, encompassing about 20 percent of U.S. investment dollars today.

Gwendolyn BonillaGwendolyn Bonilla, Market Manager and Senior Regional Loan Officer, Accion Colorado provided an overview of Accion, a non-profit micro-lender organization. Accion provides loans for low-income entrepreneurs, minorities, and women, with loans as small as $200 to as large as $1 million loans for equipment, working capital, business acquisition, and commercial real estate. Accion also provides training, supporting, and coaching to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed, providing positive impacts for communities as well.

Laura HussainLaura Hussain, former Director of Sustainability Stakeholder Relations for Texas Instruments gave an overview of corporate sustainability management, whereby firms reap rewards in being more efficiently managed, being attractive to investors, and engaging and attracting better employees. Sustainable companies also make better decisions by including environmental, social, and governance considerations in their strategies, decisions, and operations. The role of a sustainability director as a change leader in a large company includes getting executives and board members on board as influencers and providing oversight and leader access, developing cross-functional oversight teams and working committees for creative problem solving, creating guidelines and principles and an aspirational framework to align efforts internally, and sharing these with external constitutions.

Overall, the event was successful in allowing students to network and learn about different types of investments that empower companies to do good, as well as reaping benefits for investors, entrepreneurs, and these companies.

Thanks goes out to the organizers of the event: Irene Wang, President of Net Impact; Weizhen Zhong, Vice President of Programs; and Professor Elizabeth Cooperman, Chapter Advisor.

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