8 Ways to Learn About Impact Investment at Business School

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Thursday, September 28, 2017
By Giselle Weybrecht
Image via iStock
Impact investing—investing that brings in both financial and social returns—isn't just for finance students.

Chances are, whatever business school you choose to attend you will be hearing more and more about sustainability in all of your classes. One class where you might not expect to hear about sustainability is in finance class, but this is no longer the case. Impact investing is fast becoming a part of the lesson plan at business schools, with the socially conscious in mind. Impact investing is investing that brings in both financial and social returns on investment. A growing number of business schools are not only teaching topics such as impact investing, but they are providing students with many opportunities to work with banks and the financial sector in this exciting area. In fact, at some campuses the impact investing opportunities are so popular that there is a lot of competition to get in.

If you think impact investing is only for students interested in finance, think again. The players involved in impact investing of course include venture capitalists and investment banks, but there are also a range of careers that support this sector, including consultants, advisors, NGOs, and government bodies.

Here are eight ways you can get involved in impact investing during business school:

  1. Attend an event. The business and NGO communities have been organizing events around impact investing for several years. The G8 Social Impact Investing Forum in 2013 kick-started a lot of global discussions and work in this area, and it has since been at the center of many international conferences, bringing together all the major financial institutions. Business schools are starting to take part, as well. Darden School of Business, for example, has an impact investing speaker series as well as an annual Impact Investing Forum.
  2. Join a club. Some business schools now have clubs specifically focused on impact investing. In 2016, MIT Sloan launched a new Impact Investing Club where students share resources and opportunities on impact investing. The club started as part of the school’s Net Impact Club but gained enough momentum to become its own spinoff group. Members have also been working with the business school to create a new course on this topic. If your school doesn’t already have a club, start one. Chances are there are others interested in the topic, as well.
  3. Take a course. Many business schools are including modules on impact investing in their curriculum. Some have whole courses dedicated to the subject. The Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town offers a course on impact investing with a focus on Africa but with a range of global case studies and a diverse group of leading experts coming in as guest speakers.
  4. Follow the work of impact investing labs. Because of the new opportunities in impact investing, business schools are starting impact investing research centers to work with businesses in this area. SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy has an Impact Investing Lab that acts as a platform and point of reference at a national and international level to support the development of impact investing. It generates research and organizes events. Centers such as these can give students guidance and opportunities in this field.
  5. Form a team and join an impact investing competition. Competitions are a unique part of a business school program and a great opportunity to work on a team, develop your skills and learn some new ones, and often win some great prizes. There are competitions in all sorts of different fields that you can take part in during your business degree, including in impact investing. Teams of students from schools such as the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and London Business School take part in the international MBA Impact Investing Network and Training Event. Through this program, teams source and conduct research on early-stage impact investments and then present to a judging committee composed of industry leaders for a potential investment of up to 50,000 USD.
  6. Get involved in consulting projects. Some schools offer students the chance to work as part of teams to advise organizations on impact investing projects. For example, students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business can take part in the CASE i3 Fellows program in their second year, where they work with organizations to do research and market analysis.
  7. Work on a fund. So you’ve learned about impact investing but you want to try it yourself. A growing number of schools now have social impact funds that are completely student-run. At these schools, you apply to be one of the student fund managers and then have the chance to evaluate investment opportunities. These funds are all different sizes, but the idea is the same. Haas Business School at the University of California Berkeley has a fund of 2.5 million USD (which has more than doubled since it was first started!).
  8. Take a specialization. If you are really interested in impact investing, and the positive edge it may be able to give you in your career search post-graduation, some schools are offering specializations and even degree programs focused solely on sustainable finance and in particular impact investing. The John Molson School of Business at the University of Concordia in Canada offers a Sustainable Investment Professional Certification. The program is online and self-paced.

As interest in impact investing grows not just in business schools but in the business world, there will continue to be new opportunities to do an internship or even find a full-time job in this space. Many students who have taken part in some of the opportunities outlined here have gone on to work for major organizations in this growing field. Regardless of whether your school has opportunities in impact investing already, many of these routes you can tap into no matter what school you attend.

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Giselle Weybrecht
Author, Advisor, and Speaker, Sustainability and Business
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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