Tag Archives: Nature Conservancy

The Win-Win-Win of Impact Investing

By: Nathan Sell*

Ask not what your investment dollars can do for you, but ALSO what they can do for others, and the environment. That’s the idea behind Impact Investing, an emerging paradigm shift in philanthropy. This form of socially responsible investing generates both measurable social and environmental impact as well as returns on investment. Mark Tercek, CEO of the Nature Conservancy and former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs is at the forefront of linking business and the environment for a better world as he discusses in his recent book “Nature’s Fortune.” Tercek, and the new wave of impact investors are proving that your investments can make money AND do good.

Impact investing in the environment is quickly coming to scale as the value of ecosystem services to clean air and water, armor shorelines, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation is being realized. Cities like Philadelphia are leading the way in green infrastructure investment. Over the next 25 years, Green Stormwater Infrastructure will help the city to combat the extreme weather patterns as well as prevent Combined Sewer Overflows resulting in greener cities and cleaner waters for which the initiative is named.

Novo Nordisk entered China in 1994 and immediately noticed that a diet high in starch was leading to diabetes in a large portion of the population. Combined with rapid pathogen spread due to urbanization, the health of the people in China was (and continues to be) at risk. Novo Nordisk put their efforts toward alleviating some of these health concerns. By training doctors in diabetes care and prevention, the company has helped to save over 140,000 life years. The shared value of impact investment ensures companies like Novo Nordisk remain profitable while helping the communities in which they work.

Impact investing also has the potential to bring promising technologies to scale. Without investment, it’s possible that companies like d.light may never have gotten off the ground. With the help of investment, this for-profit social enterprise has been able to sell affordable solar lamps to those without reliable power. The result? D.light is bringing safe, bright and renewable lighting to people around the world, allowing students to do their homework, families to cook, and an overall better quality of life to over 34 million people.

Impact investing may prove better for people and the planet than charitable giving. Investing in businesses that do good by people and the planet can ensure the success of their mission, allowing for long term solutions, rather than a potential band-aid in the form of a grant or gift. If your investment could benefit the triple bottom line, rather than just YOUR bottom line then you’ve found the rare win-win-win scenario. The next time you invest, think strategically about what your money can really do.

*Nathan is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania and a current ORISE Fellow with EPA Water.

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Careers in Energy and Corporate Efficiency: IGEL Career Event

Amanda Byrne

Amanda Byrne is pursuing a Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. She worked at ICF International for four years primarily supporting EPA’s ENERGY STAR program after graduating from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Energy, Business and Finance.

How often do you hear electric utilities talk about their work in the sustainability and environmental impact mitigation spaces? Let me tell you, it is a very enlightening experience. Two utility employees participated on the second panel of IGEL’s October 5th event – Careers in Sustainability, Energy and Business – and discussed many ways they are driving those types of efforts within their companies. Rye Barcott, commercial associate in the Sustainability Office of Duke Energy, and Melanie Dickersbach, Climate and Environment Strategy Manager at Exelon Corporation, both talked about their work to move their companies to a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly framework. An interesting fact that the panelists mentioned is that much of the utility work force will be retiring in the coming years. The utility industry is worth looking into if you are interested in corporate sustainability career opportunities. Based on questions from interested audience members, Melanie and Rye gave the following tips to those interested in careers in that field:

  • It is important to first understand the structure and intricacies of the utility industry in order to address future challenges.
  • It is particularly helpful to have sales experience.
  • Internships with utilities are a great way to get your foot in the door and start building utility experience.

Gary Survis, CEO of GeoscapeSolar, and Bill Kunze, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy also participated on the panel and highlighted the following key points with regard to careers in energy and corporate efficiency:

  • Consumers are making decisions based on finances over their emotions (particularly in the solar industry), so it is important to understand the financial components in this business space.
  • It will benefit students to study cultural shifts in terms of attitudes towards sustainability.
  • Experience at consulting firms can help build experience with breadth and depth for these types of careers.

It is evident from the panelists’ comments, and their resumes alone, that cross-functionality in sustainability careers is important. But that doesn’t mean we have to pursue five different career avenues before settling into sustainability. We can learn from these experiences and figure out how best to tailor our curriculum and the types of companies we pursue to our interests.

This event was the first career event that IGEL held this year, and it was extremely useful for me to hear career and curriculum pointers directly from industry (in particular, employees that hold the types of positions I want!). If you weren’t able to make it, check out a recording of the event here. To hear more from some of the panelists individually, check out panelist interviews here, or at: http://www.youtube.com/WhartonIGEL.